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BeccaK
10th Feb 2008, 22:44
There are a lot of dramatic, and excellent films out there at the moment, all vying for attention: from No Country for Old Men, & There Will Be Blood, to the theatrics of Sweeney Todd. Can I put in a recommendation that you don't overlook Juno, a fairly low-key but sassy independent comedy from Jason Reitman?

Juno stars Ellen Page as the title character: she's a witty, cool 16-year-old who finds herself awkwardly pregnant after seducing her boyfriend while bored, and decides to give the baby up for adoption:
I was thinking I could, like, have the baby and give it to somebody who totally needs it. Maybe they'll, like, canonize me for being totally selfless.

The film centres around Juno herself, her down-to-earth parents and nerdy-cool boyfriend Bleeker, and needy couple Mark and Vanessa, all turning in pretty solid performances, as the story covers a year in Juno's life - from peeing on a stick, to waters breaking and beyond. It's delightfully witty, with much of the comedy deriving from the juxtaposition of teenage naievity and straightforwardness, combined with a rather precious subject matter.

There has been a whole slew of 'unwanted pregnancy' films recently: Waitress, and Knocked Up come instantly to mind. I haven't seen the latter, but I suspect that where Juno knocks them both into a hat is in its tone. It isn't sentimental, nor is it coarse. The humour is droll and sharp, rather than the standard gross-out or slapstick fare. The characters are nicely drawn and played, without tipping over into pretentiousness.

I know that there's a lot out there at the moment that seems quite important, and quite worthy, and that I really should see. But if I could go to the cinema with the guarantee of seeing something this good with every single showing, then I'd be there every night. I just haven't felt this good about cinema in quite a little while.

*****

beer good
11th Feb 2008, 10:02
I thought it was a very enjoyable film - the sort that makes me go "awwww" and wear a silly grin, which takes some doing. It's... charming. Ellen Page is great in the lead, plus it's very hard to not love a movie that has people like JK Simmons, Allison Janney and Jason Bateman in it (and uses the Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else But You" for a theme song). And I love that it's got a pregnant 16-year-old who is the protagonist rather than just the hapless victim around whom everything circles; Juno is the story about Juno, not about her child, not about the abortion debate, not about the dangers or hotness of teenage sex... one person's story, not a Message Movie. The adult characters are just as clueless about how to solve things as the teenagers - difficult questions don't necessarily become easier with age, and like its main character the film is very pragmatic; shit happens, you deal.

The only problem I have with is... well, the whole "heartwarming indie comedy with obscure indie bands on the soundtrack and a smart-aleck in the lead" genre is really starting to look a bit predictable, isn't it? If you've seen Ghost World, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite and all those, sooner or later you start wishing for a movie which doesn't make you want to frown and go "ANOTHER Belle and Sebastian song?" every three minutes. While I love the dialogue for the most part, it's tends to be a little too cute for its own good at times; there were times when I thought I was watching an episode of Buffy or Dead Like Me. That's not really a complaint - I love those shows - but it might not have hurt if the movie had seemed a little less like a showcase for smart and snappy dialogue and a little more... I don't know, "real" seems harsh. But yeah. (Though notice the many "littles" in that section.)

But by all means, go see it. Juno deserves praise, if not unreserved. It takes a big subject and makes comedy out of it without ever resorting to cheap laughs or simple solutions, without ever making the characters feel like cardboard cutouts with morality lessons stamped on them, it's got Sonic Youth covering the Carpenters on the soundtrack, and I even managed to work up a little bit of sympathy for a character non-played by Jennifer Garner. That, too, takes some doing. ****0

(Incidentally, Jason Reitman should have a bright future ahead of him if he keeps this up; Thank You For Smoking and Juno within two years of each other - yikes.)

HP
11th Feb 2008, 11:14
While I love the dialogue for the most part, it's tends to be a little too cute for its own good at times;

It's unfair perhaps to form a judgment just from trailers alone, but those that I saw recently for this, made me resolve on the spot to give this film one very wide berth. It was the 'cutsey-ness' of the dialogue that I found toe-curling and repellent. Instant visions of scriptwriters sitting around saying, 'hey, why don't we make a film about unwanted teenage pregnancy and make it cool and ya know - funny and fresh.' What I saw, albeit in those very brief clips, was totally predictable and about as fresh as last week's unwashed socks. Sorry to be strident - and I freely admit this is a very personal thing - but I l really do loathe this - well, this heavily-processed, fat-lite, e-saturated humour. A McDonald's to-go but about as far from real food as you could possibly get.

there were times when I thought I was watching an episode of Buffy or Dead Like Me.That's not really a complaintAnd that's probably part of the problem - for me it definitely would be.

It takes a big subject and makes comedy out of it without ever resorting to cheap laughs or simple solutions, The trouble is, what I saw from those clips - and I'm presuming those were chosen as some of the high points of the film - it was all about cheap laughs and facile solutions.

Again, full apologies for being so down on this, based only on a smattering of tasters. I'm sure this will please a lot of people and I respect Becca's and beer good's judgment enough to accept that I may well be marching out of step to the rest of the army. It's just - and you can call me a cynic because I cheerfully admit to it - all I see here is the sleight of hand of clever marketing and pretty packaging. But when you open the box, it's empty.

John Self
11th Feb 2008, 11:47
I'll wait to see the film before passing judgement, as trailers very rarely represent films in anything like the fullness of their qualities (or lack thereof). If I remember rightly Little Miss Sunshine looked cutesy-and-quirky-by-numbers from the trailer.

It's on at our neighbourhood cinema which has half price tickets on Wednesday, so looks like that's when we'll be seeing it.

BeccaK
11th Feb 2008, 12:56
HP - I didn't particularly find it very much like Buffy or Dead Like Me, but I like both of those series, so the comparison doesn't disturb me too much. Yes, the dialogue was a little too knowledgeable for a 16-year old, but I recognised the attitude from teenage members of my extended family who are as headstrong and opinionated and eccentric as Juno is.

I can't deny that it's feelgood. Nor is it so quirky as to be, well, needy (Science of Sleep, anyone?). It is a good deal less cutesy and conveniently packaged than it appears from the trailers, but... you've got to want to watch this kind of film to begin with. I mean, if you want to watch There Will Be Blood and someone drags you to see Juno then you might be a little pissed off. But if you're looking for a wry comedy that is head and shoulders above any rom-coms you've seen for the past couple of years, then I think this is it.

bakunin_the_cat
11th Feb 2008, 13:18
To be honest, I do have a bit of a problem watching American teen/college movies, or to be honest Hollywood comedies full stop. For every one that's decent, thoughtful or even half-entertaining, there are twenty that are absolute dross. I'm not just being snooty. I just don't like them. Even things like American Pie which some people seem to think hilarious leave me sitting naked and cold in the darkened corner of the cinema trying to self-harm with a bic biro. And as for Sweet Home Alabama and various others, far too numerous too mention, I wish I'd just disembowelled myself with a rusty screwdriver and fed my innards to a pack of rabid dogs, whilst white-hot pokers were smashed into my particulars. It would have been more pleasurable.

Not that I'm saying Juno is like this of course. I haven't seen it. The trouble is with such a history, I do become more than a little reluctant to give it a go. Especially when there are other films around far more likely to gain my approval.

BeccaK
11th Feb 2008, 13:19
Quoting you from the Filimplist thread, HP:

...I have a deep and abiding loathing for what I guess we can loosely call, 'American teenage comedy'. Hell would have to freeze over before I'm likely to voluntarily sit through anything starring Jean-Claude Van Dam(ned-fucking-awful) or Julia Roberts.

It's very much not in any of the categories you describe above, HP. Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude wouldn't be likely to go anywhere near it, nor is it teenage rom-com of the likes of 10 Things I Hate About You or Bring It On, or any others that spring to mind.

The reason why I'd avoid it is simply that, if you are anything like me, you'll conceive a great antipathy to anything that receives a lot of attention (like Little Miss Sunshine, for example), and you'll go along and hate it. I recommend my remedy, which is to leave the film till you're not utterly bored of people talking about it, and to get it out on DVD when you feel like watching something but you don't want to risk something that might be utterly rubbish. (So - perhaps 18 months?) It might pleasantly surprise you.

HP
11th Feb 2008, 13:25
but... you've got to want to watch this kind of film to begin with. I mean, if you want to watch There Will Be Blood and someone drags you to see Juno then you might be a little pissed off.

Becca, you're absolutely right. And I fully admit I have a prejudice againstwhat I think this film is going to be, based on those very brief clips - which is very narrow-minded of me. It's a bit like finding you have an allergy to prawns, and from there refusing to eat any shellfish at all.

John Self
11th Feb 2008, 13:26
It's very much not in any of the categories you describe above, HP. Julia Roberts and Jean-Claude wouldn't be likely to go anywhere near it

I thought HP was just offering those up as other 'qualities' which would turn her off a film, not relating them to Juno.

nor is it teenage rom-com of the likes of 10 Things I Hate About You or Bring It On, or any others that spring to mind

Yes, that's what I understand by 'American teen comedy' - also bak's mention of American Pie is what came to mind for me when HP mentioned that category. My impression of Juno, slight as it is, doesn't coincide with that. I had it down more as a Squid and the Whale (http://palimpsest.org.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=1921) type thing.

But I can't believe I'm expending so many words on a film I haven't even seen yet! I'll shut up now.

BeccaK
11th Feb 2008, 13:27
To be honest, I do have a bit of a problem watching American teen/college movies... honest Hollywood comedies... American Pie...Sweet Home Alabama...
Not that I'm saying Juno is like this of course.

It really isn't anything like this at all; American Pie leaves me cold, Sweet Home Alabama is pretty sickening. Neither of these films are in the same genre. I'm not going to over-defend, though - it doesn't help - and we're not talking about Citzen Kane here, after all.

BeccaK
11th Feb 2008, 13:28
I thought HP was just offering those up as other 'qualities' which would turn her off a film, not relating them to Juno.


I was slightly confused as to what teenage rom-coms HP had been watching!

HP
11th Feb 2008, 13:31
I thought HP was just offering those up as other 'qualities' which would turn her off a film, not relating them to Juno.


I was. But no matter ...

But I can't believe I'm expending so many words on a film I haven't even seen yet! I'll shut up now.


Well that's got me told! So I'll button it at once, too. :lol:

John Self
11th Feb 2008, 13:31
Regency Pictures Proudly Presents...

A Section 8 Production...

A Stephen Soderbergh Film...

JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME

JULIA ROBERTS

in

To Serve Them All My Babies

[voice-over] "It was a time of..." etc. etc.

HP
11th Feb 2008, 13:43
Keep up, man - you forgot the Farrelly brothers, Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller. This is serious Turkey time we're talking! :lol:

Noumenon
11th Feb 2008, 14:06
To Serve Them All My BabiesYes, this is a trailer I want to see.

amner
20th Feb 2008, 20:27
You just knew, watching the otherwise very annoying Hard Candy (don't get me started), that Ellen Page was going to be a star. Not just a star in the way that - oh, I dunno - Scarlett Johanssen is a star, but in a real "Ma! They're looking at me! Ma!" kind of way. Proper, shining, up-there-in-lights stardom. Juno starts and ends, she says, 'with a chair', but really it's with her...and she's in every scene, and what's more, apart from a brief Delivery Room moment, she steals every damn scene by a country mile.

Pregnant, after a moment of boredom, by her not-really nerdy-cool boyfriend, Bleeker, Juno MacGuff makes the unusual decision of seemingly happily giving 'it' up to two wealthy aspirants, Mark and Vanessa. Blithely accepting that she's simply not equipped at 16 to care for a baby, and wisecracking her way through the inconvenience of carrying the child for someone else, she hard-assedly gets on with the business of being pregnant.

We follow Juno through the whole shebang, including the steadily uncertain possible deepening of feelings shared between her and the adoptive Dad. But this is so much more than a two-dimensional portrayal, and Ellen Page and the screenplay by Diablo Cody are far far too cute to let us get away - as per Waitress, which incidentally I really liked, but which doesn't compare - with a simple heartstring-tugger.

Oh, no, there's way more going on beneath the surface (pun intended) with this. Page carefully eases out clues as to her real feelings; for the potential parents, for the real Dad, for the baby, and by doing so drags us deeper and deeper into her world. Despite the outer shell that makes her a tough little nut, there's not just a little girl, but something much grander and more important going on. The way that her family offer her unflinching support while the adoptives crack explains a lot about this young woman and her reserves of resolve.

Although it's Page's movie everybody plays a blinder, none more so than West Wing corker Allison Janney, as Juno's get-on-with-it stepmom Brenda. Wise to the girl's headstrong too-sharp wit she's always ready to deflect the punches and roll with 'em if needs be. It's not up to sharp-tongued Juno to come out with the snappy dialogue in the Maternity Hospital (she's too busy being torn apart by contractions and waiting for the epidural), but Bren is very happy to tell her the plain truth that "doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream".

There are nuggets like that peppered throughout. Sometimes, though, as when she tells her Dad, Mac, that she's pregnant, wise-ass wouldn't cover it, and instead we realise that Juno is still just a kid:
Mac: I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.
Juno: I don't know what kind of girl I am.


At the end, well, we do know what kind of girl she is, because Page has painted her in perfectly, and the final pay-offs are all perfectly pitched. Plus, what can I say without giving it away, they don't go the route you expected. It's the Road Less Travelled, and that's cool, because it allows a lovely touching final scene that had this punter smiling and blubbing in equal measure.

Boss.

*****

Oh, and it's the soundtrack of the year, bar none.

BeccaK
20th Feb 2008, 22:35
Great review, amner - feel relieved that someone else has seen and enjoyed. I bought the soundtrack last week.

Stradlater
20th Feb 2008, 22:54
Eek. I feel I may be a lone dissenting voice here. I really WANTED to love this, as - on first glance - it ought to be the kind of film I like. I tend to enjoy independent American cinema. And I'm all for the notion of clever dialogue and feisty characterisation for young female characters. But I'm afraid I couldn't get along with Juno at all. I found it to be achingly self-conscious, and trying much much too hard. For me, it was a cynical exercise, it was indie-light. And I have to admit, I didn't watch it until the end, as the central performance annoyed me so much. I may well watch it again in five years and change my mind, which happens every so often (I hated "Four Weddings" and "Swingers" first time I saw them and now think they are both great). But for now, I'm saying No to Juno.

Daveybot
21st Feb 2008, 10:43
I saw this a couple of weeks ago now and totally forgot to weigh in with my opinions. Amner says it for me, though, which is nice - Thanks Amner!

...Sometimes, though, as when she tells her Dad, Mac, that she's pregnant, wise-ass wouldn't cover it, and instead we realise that Juno is still just a kid:

This bit particularly. It was the scenes in which she, without realising, came out with staggeringly hurtful talk (particularly to the woman played so jolly well by Jennifer Garner, for instance, but also Bleeker) that made Juno such a believable teenager for me.

Oh, and it's the soundtrack of the year, bar none.

Ah, now this I take slight issue with. I haven't seen There Will Be Blood yet but I've heard Greenwood's come up with a real winner.

Certainly I believe the music of Juno represented the main character's tastes, but there were a few too many Kimya Dawson tracks on there for my liking. Probably nothing wrong with that per se, but I went to see Dawson playing in Oxford a couple of years back and about two thirds through the show was forced to admit to myself that I was finding her style of singing really really annoying - too much holding of breath and not enough singing of tune.

But certainly a bloody good soundtrack nonetheless.

Also, did anyone else notice that Patti Smith, one of Juno's favourites, was credited as a producer? Nifty.

BeccaK
21st Feb 2008, 10:54
Eek. I feel I may be a lone dissenting voice here.

No worries. It's rather nice when the dissenting voices come from people who've seen the film! :-)

Stradlater
21st Feb 2008, 11:10
I really did WANT to like Juno. I'm a sucker for the genre. I loved Little Miss Sunshine, Igby Goes Down, loads of those youthful American Independents . . . I just don't know why Juno didn't appeal and am not feeling too articulate today but . . . I don't know . . . it seemed, fake, somehow. Not the real thing. Like aliens had come to the planet, looked at the independent genre, and said: so that's how you make an american independent movie . . . okay, here are the ingredients, now let's make one of our own (and maybe then they roll around laughing like the little tin men in the 'Smash' commercial). Or not. Anyway, I MUST be stopped and I MUST get back to work!!!

amner
21st Feb 2008, 13:19
Ah, now this I take slight issue with. I haven't seen There Will Be Blood yet but I've heard Greenwood's come up with a real winner.

It's very good, yes. But like the movie it comes from, it's to be admired, not enjoyed.

HP
21st Feb 2008, 13:27
No worries. It's rather nice when the dissenting voices come from people who've seen the film! :-)

Ouch. Fifty Hail Marys and a voluntary spell on the naughty chair. Guilty as charged. Sorry Becca. :oops:



(but dare I say it? Just know this won't float my boat, even so.)

kirsty
28th Feb 2008, 10:31
I saw this last night, and I'm absolutely with Becca and Amner. I really don't have anything to add to what they have said about it, other than John Self, you're right about it being in The Squid and the Whale mode (which works for me as that is one of my favourite films of recent times).

Yes, the whole Hollywood-indie flick is becoming somewhat of a genre in its own right, but to be honest, I'm fine with that. I like the sharp dialogue, and the knowing glances. Aside from the whole, y'know, getting pregnant thing, I wish I'd been as cool as Juno when I was 16.

Incidentally, had no idea it was the same director as Thank You For Smoking, which I actually didn't like very much. But on the basis of Juno then he does have a bright future I think. Not that I really know ANYTHING about film.

Diablo Cody deserved the Oscar. I just hope that she doesn't get complacent or something and just go on to write lots of Juno-by-numbers. Maybe she should quite while she's ahead...

*****

bill
17th Apr 2008, 16:26
I watched this last night. If you would like to read my very brief thoughts, you could always click on my Filmlist (http://palimpsest.org.uk/forum/showpost.php?p=87027&postcount=26) link, and scroll all the way to the bottom. While there, you could even check out some of my other mini-reviews! The list is updated sporadically!

Also, I believe I've heard that Diablo Cody's next script is actually a horror film.

John Self
17th Apr 2008, 16:36
If you would like to read my very brief thoughts, you could always click on my Filmlist (http://palimpsest.org.uk/forum/showpost.php?p=87027&postcount=26) link, and scroll all the way to the bottom. While there, you could even check out some of my other mini-reviews! The list is updated sporadically!

:lol: Thanks for the reminder, bill! I did so and enjoyed myself thoroughly: your reviews pack a great deal of good sense into few words. Now if only you'd (a) expand on all the ones you haven't mini-reviewed, and (b) insert a goddam blank line between each one, it'd be perfect.

bill
17th Apr 2008, 16:48
Oh, goodness!! I can certainly do that. It is starting to look a little crowded, isn't it?

And I actually wrote three or four today, so hopefully I'm back on track, and can finish up the others some time soon. Thanks for the kind words!

bill
17th Apr 2008, 16:52
Blank lines added.

John Self
17th Apr 2008, 16:56
In particular I'd love to hear your thoughts on A Matter of Life and Death (***00 indeed! - that's fighting talk round here) - we have a Powell & Pressburger thread somewhere.

bill
17th Apr 2008, 17:05
Yes, I know. And I've been putting that one off. It's a shame I didn't watch The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp this year (****** all around), because then you wouldn't be so apt to punch me.

HP
17th Apr 2008, 17:34
Now if only you'd [...](b) insert a goddam blank line between each one, it'd be perfect.

Tut-tut. You've got your pinny on again, JS!