Thursday, May 8, 2008

Juno (2007)

A few minutes into Juno, the 2007 flick about teenage pregnancy, I was not certain if I would persevere. No wonder so many people love movies based on Jane Austen, and other period pieces, films which show life with boundaries and certain levels of outward propriety. In Juno, there is the heroine bantering about her most intimate business with a male drug store clerk. How lost can a girl be? Her life appeared to be devoid of anything resembling charm and beauty. Wondering what would become of her, I watched the entire film.

Juno in some ways reminded me of the 2004 independent film Napoleon Dynamite in that both are quirky, off-beat films about quirky, off-beat teenagers. The big difference is that Juno is just too “cool.” Napoleon Dynamite, by being deliberately “uncool” was genuinely fun and refreshing. In Juno, each wisecrack is cooler than the last; it becomes tiresome after awhile. As for the protagonist herself, other than her delicate features and protruding abdomen (once the baby starts to show) there is nothing to distinguish her from a boy; she is definitely one of the guys. For that particular young girl, getting pregnant was the perhaps the only way to find a feminine identity. She seemed unable to relate to her boyfriend as anything but a buddy. How pathetic when young people think that fornication is the only way to initiate a romance.

Nevertheless, Juno shows herself to be a plucky little character, who really wants to do what is best for the baby, once she decides not to kill it, that is. Ellen Page deftly conveys the range of emotions which the heroine endures. All in all the acting was quite good, I thought. Jennifer Garner was heartbreaking as the nervous adoptive mother. Sadly, none of the men, except perhaps for Juno’s father, seemed to be willing to step up to the plate when it came to the baby. Does the triumph of feminism, of telling men that they are no longer needed since women can do it all, give men a ticket to the Land of Freedom from Responsibility? That is the message the film imparts.

Other than the fact that the heroine chooses not to abort her baby, Juno is not necessarily what I would call a “pro-life” film. So much of the attitude towards infants in the movie is that they are overwhelming nuisances, which they are indeed. But they also gifts from God, embodying the past, present and future of humanity. The joy and awe in the face of the baby’s adoptive mother, Juno’s tears when she gives up her baby, and the concern and care of her stepmother, do show the immense impact of one new little life. Not enough, however, to balance the crass vulgarity which prevails through most of the film.

I do hope that films like Juno make a positive difference in attitudes towards the plight of unwed adolescent mothers. It requires a great deal of courage to bear a child while still in high school, and even more to give up the child for adoption. In spite of her backwardness, Juno makes some mature and wise decisions, and for those elements the film should be commended. Although for the sordid repartee and coarse behavior of the heroine, I would not recommend it for young people. Share


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review, Elena.
I'm forwarding it to my daughter and her friends at Franciscan-they studied the film in a debate class. My daughter didn't care for it because of the explicit sexual references and degrading sexual exploits of the main character---which they didn't seem to regret, even after the pregnancy.
I didn't like it because of the pseudo sophistication of the main character--it was over the top. I expected a good film and was disappointed.

elena maria vidal said...

I agree with both you and your daughter, SF. The vulgarity of the film overwhelmed any pro-life message it might have. And the main character was extremely coarse.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

May I link/quote this in the Love2Learn at the Movies blog? I haven't seen it-- and greatly appreciate your views.

elena maria vidal said...

Certainly, Ana.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Will do!

Anonymous said...

Your assessment is fair and accurate Elena Maria. I too would not recommend the film for young teens. The vulgarity and casual disregard for sacred things, including people, makes it difficult for teens to "locate" this story in proper category.

The story line however is a good one, if only the director & writer had used more restraint in language and handled those explicit scenes with a modest subtly instead.

What I do find encouraging however, that producers will entertain the concept (pun intended!) of there being another "choice" in the choice rhetoric, without an explicitly religious framework.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, it had the potential to be quite good if it had not been so crass. I could not stand how Juno refers to the baby as "the thing."

Anonymous said...

It's so strange: I was just thinking of reviewing Juno, and you beat me to it! I won't do it now because I see very little to add to what you say.

It is indeed a pity that American media (the worst in this regard are sitcoms and television commercials) picture men as such hapless, helpless, useless characters.

What bothered me most about the movie was that Juno, in spite of a supportive family, never seemed to give a thought to the option of raising her child herself, and instead believed the best solution was adoption by a clearly dysfunctional couple. I cringed every time she referred to her child as "the thing."


elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for pointing that out, Catherine. I was wondering about that, too. Just because people have money does not mean they have good parenting skills.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

In a perfect world, Juno's character would have handled her out-of-wedlock pregnancy with modesty and grace. Heck, in a perfect world, Juno's character would not have gotten pregnant at all! Obviously, though, we do not live in a perfect world.

I disagree with the assertion that the vulgarity in this movie overwhelmed its pro-life message. Dialogue like this may bother us, but it is all too familiar to today's average teenager. That, too, is unfortunate, but we have got to reach them where they're at.

And judging from the movie's success, it did reach them. We're talking about a different audience than that of, say, the movie Bella--a worldly audience, a "psuedo-sophisticated" audience, an audience who (perhaps) is living dysfunction on a daily basis.

We need some of our movies to speak to them, as well.

This couple chose to have their baby. Despite the protagonist's immaturity regarding the dignity of her baby--referring to it as a "thing," as you've noted--she did not abort it. Indeed, she seemed in awe at the ultrasound and the scene in which the adoptive mother holds the baby is truly beautiful.

I have to believe that sending this message to the masses did more good than harm. I don't know; I could be wrong. The bottom line is that there are many, many dysfunctional families out there. There is also hope for them...and there is goodness. Abortion is not the only answer.

elena maria vidal said...

Abortion is not an answer, period, but I understand what you mean, Margaret. As I said, I hope "Juno" did reach people. I haven't seen "Bella" but some very unworldly friends of mine liked it very much.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you must see Bella. It deals with a similar situation in a more tasteful and realistic way. The dysfunction that is present in the characters' lives is not celebrated and treated in a flip way. It artfully shows how our actions have consequences that ripple much further than we could ever imagine. Be sure to have tissues handy. :)

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, that is helpful!