Sunday, December 30, 2007
Since it opened on Christmas Day JUNO, Jason Reitman's comedic drama about a teenage girl who gets pregnant, has been trouncing WALK HARD at my hometown theater (the Varsity, where I work part-time) with at most showtimes three times the audience in attendance for the mockumentary.
The critical response has been overwhelming - it has 94% rating on the Rotten Tomatometer, and the most beloved and respected critic ever - Roger Ebert wrote that it's "just about the best movie of the year," and that he thought that star Ellen Page (who plays the title role) "will be one of the great actors of her time."
Whoa! I thought it was a likable though derivative quirk of a film with good acting and some sharp lines, but Ebert's swooning seems a bit much. Of the minority that didn't care for what looks from a distance to be this year's LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, one of the most interesting reviews came from Triangle critic Craig D. Lindsey.
Lindsey's review was entitled "Danger: Snarky Pregnant Teen Ahead," in which he writes that JUNO "could very well be the most dangerous movie to come out this holiday season.."
Dangerous not for its possible pro-life agenda but for "its kooky, deceptive, ultimately mediocre charms". He goes on to say that if successful "it will inspire and influence a legion of teenage girls to start acting snotty and snarky, just like Juno, more than they already do."
So since Ebert adores Page, thinks Diablo Cody's first time screenplay is Oscar worthy, and ended up making JUNO his #1 film of the year while Lindsay considers the whole thing "snarky" I find myself toeing the middle ground. It is not in my eyes anywhere near the best movie of the year or is it a dangerous socially influential manifesto.
Greatly in its favor is that JUNO is very well cast - apart from Page we have J. K. Simmons and Allison Janey (The West Wing) as her parents, from the beloved yet short-lived Arrested Development - Michael Cera (also of SUPERBAD) as Juno's boyfriend and his fellow former cast member Jason Bateman. Bateman and Jennifer Garner play a suburban couple who sign on to be the baby's adoptive parents. How it all pans out was a little different than I expected and some of the exchanges are nicely witty:
Juno (Page): "Can't we kick it old school? Like Moses and the reeds?"
Mark (Bateman): "Actually that would be kicking it old Testament."
None of JUNO will be surprising visually to moviegoers - it resembles most indie fare from THUMBSUCKER to ROCKET SCIENCE and its soundtrack won't seem out of the ordinary either. Reitman should know that you don't use The Kinks (their song "A Well Respected Man" plays at one point) if you don't want to invite Wes Anderson comparisons. The Film Babble Blog bottom line is that JUNO is just alright.