24 January 2008
  the problem with juno:

a multivariate analysis
by lucas witman
phd candidate

the problem with juno can best be described by breaking the film down into its various areas of suckitude.

1. okay, so i've never dismissed a film out of hand on its music (well, except maybe dreamgirls, but i digress). however, at the forefront of juno's outstanding degree of viewer-inflicted-irritation has got to be the mindnumbing uber-repetitive songs that permeate it. all of the songs are basically three cords repeated over and over again with more or less the same lyrics (e.g. If you were a wink, I'd be a nod/ If you were a seed, well I'd be a pod./ If you were the floor, I'd wanna be the rug
And if you were a kiss, I know I'd be a hug. . . *AAARGH*) think the opening song from napoleon dynamite but over and over and over and over again until you want to take your greasy fingers out of your popcorn tub and dig them down into your inner ears. I have never written a song before, but I am confident that I could imagine better lyrics than are present ANYWHERE in this movie, and I have never played the guitar before, but I am confident that after a single lesson I could play all three of the cords that the movie's songwriters play. honestly, i know you think i am exaggerating, but the music really is that irritating.

2. maybe one could forgive and forget the music if the substance of the film was really great, but the more i think about what i watched, the more confused i am. i mean, everyone seems to love this movie, but nobody is pointing out the looming large problems with the script. let's start with the opening scene in the convenience store. WHY DOES THIS SCENE EVEN EXIST? it seems that they are going to develop the character of the convenience store clerk, but the store is never revisited and this is the only place where the clerk appears in the film. and why is juno taking a pregnancy test in the convenience store bathroom in the first place? and why does she have such a intimate conversation with a person that i presume she barely knows? then there is the high school scene. what the fuck is the deal with that? they do that typical teen movie thing where they introduce the different groups in the student body but then the students have no role in the movie. she makes this comment about how the jocks really like goth girls, and there are several scenes where daniel clark (from degrassi) stares smolderingly at her, but this as well goes no where. am i the only one who thinks diablo cody wrote this as some sort of bizarre stream of consciousness? i can't think of another movie that has so many scenes and characters that seem out of place and ultimately go nowhere. honestly, i would rather watch 10 things i hate about you or mean girls or even 90210, all movies/shows much less lauded than juno but seemingly much more logical.

3. and while we're on the subject of the script, let's all admit that the overly in-your-face hipness of cody's writing smacks of a subpar episode of dawson's creek. the way these characters talk is honestly unintentionally funny throughout. i love the one scene where juno's friend leah exclaims over the phone: "phuket thailand." that sort of feigned profanity could have been directly lifted from the creek. honestly, i am so sick and tired of reviewers calling cody's script "hip." what does that even mean? yes the characters speak with an obsessive-compulsive disorder-like use of slang, but does that make it hip? to me, 90 percent of the dialogue is simply idiotic. if you want hip, smart teen movie writing, watch Rian Johnson's Brick. Cody could definitely learn a thing or two from Johnson.

4. and the icing on the cake is that the story itself, as thin as it is, is sometimes offensive (on a gutteral level) and offers more scenes necessitating that i cover my eyes and ears than a teen comedy should require. the offensive scenes largely center around jason bateman's character, a fundamentally evil guy. the only really fulfilling end to this movie would be if his wife had ended up decapitating him with a pick axe or something. the relationship he had with juno was inappropriate from the very first moment they met and every time they were alone i could hardly watch it. first of all, the dialogue they had was eerily similar to the dialogue between ellen page and pedophile patrick wilson in hard candy. just the inane-ness of these conversations made me embarrassed for them both, but the subtext was just icky. honestly, everything else ignored, this relationship made the movie basically unwatchable to me.

5. and finally, the ultimate factor in juno's suckitude, it just wasn't that funny. i mean, this movie is obviously inspired by napoleon dynamite, and that movie was much funnier and never got anywhere near the degree of critical attention juno has gotten. the funniest parts for me were the unintentional or the more understated moments. the one line that really made me laugh was when juno tells her lab partners, "i hear that snow peak peach is actually the best flavor of boone's." cody just isn't a good enough writer to pen the sort of understated comedy that made napoleon dynamite, lost in translation or sideways really excellent.

the one wholly bright spot in this movie was jennifer garner. her character was the only one that really seemed to have a heart. i really enjoyed the few scenes in which she appeared, especially when she meets juno in the mall. i am not a huge fan of garner by any means, but i would have loved this movie if it had starred her character and not the other vapid soulless idiots that permeate the film.

i have to say that i love ellen page, and was a huge fan of hers before any of this juno hysteria. i had her on my best actress list last year for hard candy and have been waiting anxiously for the release of her perpetually delayed an american tragedy. and she did the best she could with the material here, but i honestly feel that this dialogue was largely beneath her. i mean, imagine if scarlett johannson and joseph gordon levitt were to star in dawson's creek as joey and dawson. it would just be inappropriate and weird. that's what this movie felt like to me. i can't wait to see more of her, but i hope next time it is in something a little more substantial and a little less cliched
23 January 2008
  so unbelievably sad
Luke and John talk about movies

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