Friday, November 30, 2007
Juno : Ooooh Baby!
When was the last time you left a movie theater sad that your time with a main character was over? And you walk into the street wanting to find that person somewhere out there? My theory is this experience tends to make people generally kind. This year's indie with all the buzz is Juno and it deserves every accolade. I felt fairly secure in the conviction that Once had the best female character of the year, but Juno has left me all in grinning uncertainty. Twenty year old Canadian actress Ellen Page better get an Oscar nom or the universe will tilt on its axis.
Juno is first and foremost a humane film. It's wonderfully humane. Not sure how to expand on that. You have to see it to know what I mean. But without being a political message movie, Juno is also pro-life, in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about pregnancy is pro-life, and more so. (I would say Juno is a cultural message movie without being a political one. Certainly, that will be an inscrutable nuance in contemporary Christendom in which almost everything is politics. What I think is interesting is that Gen Xers and Millenials are pro-life without necessarily being Culture of Life. They don't put together all the pieces in the puzzle....not yet anyway.) The movie is also anti-divorce in the way that just about every Gen-X movie about family is anti-divorce. And people with faith are here too, in a decent and gritty way that shows mere secularism to be selfish and shallow.
There is wonderful film making in this movie. All the elements come together to set and maintain the tone. It knows what it's about, and it makes you care. But the film makers absolutely know that the principle element in a movie is character. And Juno has some of the best I've seen in the movies in recent memory. I really loved these people. I wanted them to be real.
And great stuff all the way through. On the level of craft, and on the level of narrative/content. (I am being deliberately obscure here in the hopes that I provoke you into seeing the movie.)...."I don't know what kind of girl I am." (She gets the Oscar just for the way she said that line!)... Loved that the thing that Juno at first likes in Mark - his childlike attachment to his music and horror movies, becomes the thing that repels her in him - what Vanessa articulates as Mark's refusal to grow up. And isn't that nailing the dark shadow of the video game playing, lazy, commitment phobic twenty and thirty-something generation?....Loved the woman making a noose out of licorice that the child bites through....Loved the boyfriend. Loved him...Loved Alison Janney - this woman can do anything - pausing in her ridiculous hobby of cutting out dog pictures to say with the profundity of years, "I know exactly who you are."...Love the color pallet juxtaposition - the bright impressionism of the poor vs. the beige still life of the rich.... Love Vanessa talking to the baby in utero and the baby kicking back!... Love the seedy ickyness of the abortion clinic.... Loved fingernails as a moment of grace! Loved and hated it as a writer because I would never have the courage to be that daring.... Loved how much I hated watching Juno cry those two times. How I couldn't comfort her. But wonderful to watch her move from the child wanting a fantasy, to an adult taking the best next step with what's there.... It's all very good.
Inner dialogue as I left the theater: "Something wonderful is going on in the movies as the Baby Boomers cede the story-telling scepter to Gen X. Are you noting all this, you Christians who hate Hollywood and think it is all garbage? Something wonderful is happening right under your noses, but you're literally not seeing it because it doesn't fit your paradigm. Gotta ask, miss any renaissances lately?"
Juno is for older teens and adults. It has a few bad words and the suggestion of teen sex, but is not crass or coarse. I recommend it very highly.