Rightwing Film Geek

Not the Goddess of wisdom

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This is Manohla Dargis in the New York Times disparaging JUNO and it deserves reprinting in full before I tear it to pieces.

I doubt that most moviegoers would prefer the relentlessly honest “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” which involves a young woman seeking an illegal abortion, over “Juno,” an ingratiating comedy about a teenager who carries her pregnancy to term. But I wish they had the choice. “4 Months” is aesthetically bracing, but “Juno” has easy laughs, dodges abortion quicker than a presidential candidate and provides a supremely artful male fantasy. Like “Knocked Up,” it pivots on a fertile hottie who has sex without protection and, after a little emotional messiness (and no scary diseases), delivers one baby and adopts a second, namely the man-child who (also) misplaced the Trojans. Both comedies superficially recall the male wish-fulfillment fantasies of “Sideways,” but without the lacerating adult self-awareness.

Although I like JUNO a lot, I would never say not-liking it (or any other particular movie) is a character flaw or incorrigible taste. But sometimes when you read negative criticism, you just have to wonder — did this critic see the same movie I saw? Is this a case of severe cranio-rectal inversion? Where to begin? And for the record, I do prefer 4 MONTHS (9) to JUNO (8 ).

“Juno” … dodges abortion quicker than a presidential candidate …

Hardly. Aborting is the first thing Juno thinks to do and there are several scenes that last at least a minute or two about that part of her reaction to her pregnancy (the phone call to the girlfriend, outside the clinic, inside the clinic). Given that JUNO, unlike 4 MONTHS, is not a film about having an abortion, but about carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term, I wonder how much more Dargis wanted. Juno considers aborting, decides otherwise and the rest of the movie is about that choice. Why should Juno think about or discuss abortion after she’s decided to give birth? Which is realistic — next time you see a visibly pregnant woman, suggest aborting and see the reaction if you doubt me. (Scott … criticism like Dargis’s are why people think it’s reactionary to depict an unplanned pregnancy being brought to term.)

“Juno” … provides a supremely artful male fantasy.

Huh? Dargis provides more detail about what she means by this later but to name just one obvious fact about JUNO as a whole: if this were a male fantasy, the filmmakers stink because the basically left out the money scene — sex between Juno and boyfriend Paulie. JUNO only has the briefest of not-shot-to-be-erotic sex scenes and if there was any nudity, I’ve already forgotten it.

Further … as I argued in my previous post, JUNO is to a very great extent about Juno’s maturation and realizing that she has an obligation that’s more important than which of the two spouses she’d rather spend time with. And so if KNOCKED UP is a male fantasy based on pregnancy/parenthood’s transformation of a member of that sex, shouldn’t JUNO on those very terms be a “female fantasy.” Continue reading

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January 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 9 Comments

The Goddess of wisdom

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JUNO (Jason Reitman, USA, 2007) — 8

JUNO began as an at-festival add to my Toronto schedule (based on sky-high buzz filtering in from the Telluride Festival) and the subject of conflicting advice — Noel Murray was convinced I’d hate it, based on my famously low tolerance for Indiewood emo quirkfests; Josh Rothkopf thought I would like it, noting that I’d loved Reitman’s THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and adding that he’d want to discuss the film’s portrayal of abortion with me. But the only time I could see it was only one hour after the start of ATONEMENT. I got a ticket anyway planning to leave ATONEMENT midway through if it wasn’t working. Well … that plan to see JUNO didn’t work out. So, I saw it last week … and Josh is correct. I even upgraded the film from a 7 to an 8 sitting in my memory and after a conversation with a colleague at work (more on that shortly).

To state the obvious stuff: Diablo Canyon’s script about an unexpectedly pregnant teen girl who searches for the perfect parents for her unborn child is more than just very funny. It’s also smart in how teens talk — constantly smart-alecky, but also self-deprecating, i.e., smart-aleckness applied to oneself. And that’s the other key to the film’s success. Juno (unlike, say, Enid in GHOST WORLD, the kind of movie Noel knew I hate) is a *lovable* character because her wit isn’t just bile directed out at a world she looks down on as beneath her.

mcdormand.jpgIn fact, Juno may be the most memorably lovable character in an American movie since Marge in FARGO, another pregnant woman (though pregnancy is merely a fact about Marge, not the movie’s (surface) subject like here). Like Frances McDormand, Ellen Page’s open-faced performance creates a fundamentally good person, albeit a very sassy one, and Page’s ease in tossing off all the sarcastic barbs in Canyon’s script erases all hint of Hallmark saccharinity. Nothing here about motherhood as a sacred calling or anything like that, but I would go so far as to say Juno is what Generation Y virtue looks like.

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January 6, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment