Monday, April 21, 2008

TBG Reviews: Juno - the Bombastic Whore


As always, I'm the last person on earth to see the must-see movie of the year.

The great thing about that, though, is I don't have to dispense with any plot synopsis, since everyone has already seen it. We can jump right into what I thought, which is great on its own, since I can't wait to tell you how much I hated this movie.

OK, maybe "hate" is too strong, but this flick sure did annoy the living sh*t out of me.

Still, in the interest of full disclosure, Juno certainly had its moments, such as when Allison Janney (as Juno's stepmother) verbally annihilated an insensitive ultrasound technician (and, credit where it's due, Janney was equally excellent throughout the movie). J.K. Simmons (as Juno' father) was just as impressive as the unassuming everyman thrown into his daughter's chaos. His awkward banter with a pair of prospective adoptive parents (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) was gold.

Unfortunately, the cinematic bliss was few and far between for me.

Ellen Page, as the title character/impregnated waif, grated on my last nerve with her absurdly "hip" dialogue and unaffected, detached attitude. I can't overstate my distaste for either aspect of her character. Put it this way, if I was at Red Lobster and the hostess tried to sit me next to a table full of females who talked like Juno, I'd knife my own ears off before they could bring me a basket of those delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuits. "Hells yeah, honest to blog!"

As for Juno's seeming indifference towards her pregnancy, the problem here is clear: when it comes time for Juno's predictably tearful epiphany, I simply didn't believe it. I get that she was in denial and putting up shields and exhibiting every other ham-handed psychological archetype for troubled teens, but everything about her character borders on audience pandering – so why should I care?

At times, the story moves along at a pretty brisk pace, but, inevitably, another poorly-written character or excruciating scene brings things to an overly-talky halt. Rainn Wilson isn't at all funny as a creepy pharmacist – he's just "Dwight Schrute" in a lab coat. Michael Cera's "Bleeker" is the same endearingly gawky mumbler he always plays and he had no chemistry with Juno, his emasculating baby momma. And, don't get me started on Jason Bateman, who really needs to do more than slouch and hang his head in lieu of actual emotion. Every scene where Bateman's "Mark" is alone with Juno elicited more cringes than the last.

It could be possible that I just wasn't the target audience for Juno. I'm a Black guy in my mid-30s and 15+ years removed from high school. I'm too old to relate to the teenagers, too young to relate to the parents and just Black enough to wonder…where are all the Black people at? I'm not screaming "racism!" or anything, but if this same "serious" movie was made with an African-American cast and the same instantly-outdated Black slang and dialogue, it would be derided as "blaxploitation", seen by no one and shredded by middle-aged critics who couldn't relate.

And, Juno is considered "real"?

Really, it's the most overrated movie since Crash.

4 comments:

acctg.sean said...

Well, I'm with you on the general overratedness of Crash, but I think you're kind of missing one of the points of Juno - specifically, that I think her character was *intentionally* written to be this over-the-top pastiche of high school kids. The writing, overall, included both broad and narrow strokes and, taken together (instead of piece by piece, as you do) hold up very well. Seriously, give it another look.

NY Jon said...

There was some backlash against Juno as it related to all the praise it got. I'll agree that it was a flawed movie, but I think you're REALLY short changing Ellen Page's performance. That fact that she was able to rise above some of the cliched writing really impressed me. I agree with Sean... you should watch it again.

nicka said...

bootleg - you know I almost always agree with you...but not on this one. its no masterpiece but not as bad as you make it sound.

criticize the absurdity of jason REITMAN being called an "indie" film maker. nicka, please. talks about making movies on a small budget...but probably was raised in diapers made out of 100 dollar bills. yeah he's really battled his way to the top.

Tom said...

I actually quite enjoyed when Ellen Paige hosted SNL and they had Andy Samberg come out dressed as the woman who wrote the movie to make fun of the stupid slang.