Juno (2007)

Hold on for a second here … Juno was supposed to be a comedy? Just browsing around the internet, as well as from conversations with a few people, that’s the kind of vibe I’m getting here. Really? I guess I’ll have to say that Juno fails its genre then, because I did not see any comedy within this film at all. The situations weren’t funny, you didn’t care all that much about the characters, and nothing much happens that would be of any comedic value.

With that said, let’s change the genre around to a pure drama. In this regard, it manages to be a decent film. It has deep, interesting characters, and tells an easy to follow story. It doesn’t do quite so well in having an emotional impact on the viewer. This, I feel, is key to a great drama film. You can have a good one without that emotional connection, but in order to become great, something Juno isn’t, it must be there.

It opens up well, with a creative, rotoscoped title sequence that seems like a lot of time was put into it. In fact, a lot of time was put into them. The title screen itself was put together in the timeframe of around 7-8 months. I’ll call that dedication, and it shows that the people who made this movie did care about it. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, the film degrades in quality.

This may be due to the fact that I had heard nothing but praise for this film before I watched it, or maybe because of the opening title credits looking so great, but Juno did disappoint me once we actually begin to see what it has to offer us. Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) has gotten herself into a bit of a predicament; she’s pregnant. The father is Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), but he doesn’t want anything to do with the child. Juno decides that the best idea would be to abort the child, but soon decides against that. She finds a couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who are willing to adopt the child, and they draw up preliminary papers. The rest of the film details the remaining few months before the delivery. The one twist that the film presents doesn’t even have any impact on the final result of the film.

Juno’s parents don’t do anything wrong in this story, and actually end up being very supportive of their “irresponsible daughter.” The pregnancy didn’t seem to have much emotional impact on them, and it doesn’t change the relationship between them and Juno. Juno’s seemingly singular friend (Olivia Thirlby) doesn’t seem to be bothered by this event either, and stays with Juno throughout the film. The only relationship that seems to be greatly affected by the pregnancy is the one between Juno and her schoolmates. This is only touched on briefly, through short dialogue interactions, and never seems to be all that troubling to our lead character.

It’s not a bad film, and ends up being passable entertainment, but it doesn’t have the emotional connection that is required of a great drama film.

Juno is a strong lead character, that’s certain. She’s clever, intelligent, and well-rounded (in her personality, I’d like to stress). The thing is, despite how you are supposed to care for her and her situation, you won’t. She isn’t a character you’ll end up liking, because she doesn’t treat anyone else well. She’s sarcastic, insulting or apathetic towards everyone else, including her family. You know, that same family who has been supportive towards her for the entire time. She doesn’t have any actions, save for one at the end of the film, that will make you want to root for her, and you quickly become aware that putting the baby up for adoption is the best solution. Had Juno needed to be a parent, I would have felt sorry for the child more than for its mother, just because of how she acts throughout the film.

That’s not to say that Ellen Page’s performance of her character wasn’t great, because it was. In fact, none of the actors in this film did a poor job in their roles. They all played them as you would expect them to be played, and nobody did a bad job. While a couple of the characters will get on your nerves, it’s more due to how they’re written, than how they are acted.

As I was watching Juno, I was often wondering how closely the actors were following the script. I kept wondering whether or not the constant use of the phrase “you know” was part of the script, or if the script was too hard to follow, so the actors had to use improvisation a lot of the time. Thankfully, a copy of the screenplay came with my copy of the DVD, and I was able to find out. The verdict: Yes, that particular phrase is in the script. That was quite annoying for me, and it really stood out while watching it. The rest of the dialogue, while it didn’t come off as forced, it didn’t seem as “real” as I had believed it would be going in. Maybe this is another result of something being way overhyped for me before watching, but it didn’t impress me like I thought it would.

Sadly, Juno disappointed me. It’s not a bad film, and ends up being passable entertainment, but it doesn’t have the emotional connection that is required of a great drama film. It certainly wasn’t funny enough to rely on being a comedy, so drama seems to be all it has going for it. It has good actors playing interesting characters, but the character of Juno was far more unlikable than she needed to be in order for the audience to feel any sympathy for her. The story is easy to follow, thankfully, and while some of the dialogue did get annoying, it was a fairly well written piece. It’s not a great film, but it works as a decent drama about teenage pregnancy.

Conclusion: Juno lacks the laughs and emotional resonance to be as effective as it wants to be.

Recommendation: Juno is fine, and if it interests you then give it a shot.

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