the better truth

the better truth

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Juno (2008)


The hot independent film this year is “Juno”, a comedy about teenage pregnancy. It is possible to humorously dramatize hot button material. It requires diplomatic sensitivity in drawing the fine line of propriety. Cutting edge comedy often bleeds rather than tickles. In this case it was simply repellent. It is interesting to note that “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days”, this year’s critically acclaimed Romanian film, is also a comedy centered on an unwanted pregnancy. I haven’t seen it. I’ve heard good things. Unfortunately after all the kudos about "Juno" I couldn't make it through the second half.

This film is not funny. The bun-holder is smug, starlet who’s slumming it as a blue collar outcast. I sense in real-life she’s the kind of red-carpet strutter who chews threw personal assistants like M&Ms. No doubt she’ll be successful – at least for 15 minutes – but that might be enough to put some green under the mattress. The unfunniness is credited to one Diablo Cody. In this case your Sunday school teacher was right at least as far as the Devil’s abilities as a writer are concerned. The director, Jason Reitman, keeps the show on the road in a TVish linear storyline way. The main question: was this merely a gig or did he actually think this was funny? I had heard good things about “Thank You For Smoking” but then again word of mouth this one was strong. I guess since I haven’t been much of a devil’s advocate I should charge him as a co-conspirator in Ms. Cody’s preguation comedy. Getting into the details of their crime would be the equivalent of critiquing the opening sequence of "Threes Company" or analyzing Pat Sajack's interview techniques. Do most young teenage girls joke around with the Deli-man about their predicament after "failing" the pregnancy test in public bathroom? HA HA HA - the laughs are just starting everybody - we're only two minutes past the opening credits.

Maybe my funny bone is broken but I would advise all "Juno" fans to view the following: “Citizen Ruth” as how to handle unwanted pregnancy in a clever manner; and “Ghostworld” as a brilliant portrait of young female outsiderness. There have been people saying this is another “Little Miss Sunshine”. No. That was a well executed road film with sympathetic characters. They were genuine American Family odd-balls, the filmic descendants of “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”. “Juno” has its stylistic roots in forgettable "issue oriented" TV movies – I remember one that brought up the scourge of husbands who are physically abused by their wives. I had a deep belly laugh the whole two hours – unlike my experience in “Juno”. It takes a fair about of mediocrity to force me to abandon the warm movie theater at the hight of a New England Winter before the closing credits. It was inconceivable. In the end: the Diablo made me do it.

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