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Juno


August1991

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I don't like Wes Anderson movies but I can understand their attraction among a certain demographic. In a different era, JD Salinger also made a reputation telling stories about adolescent angst. (Réjean Ducharme sort of did the same - but that's an arcane reference most will misunderstand.) Invariably, such stories are quirky, dependant on slang, and with supposedly subtle in-jokes. The story, like teenagers, is also narcissistic and self-absorbed. And also like teenagers, the existential crisis is about as serious as discovering alot of unpopped popcorn at the bottom of the bag and wondering how it got there. Well, Juno is a movie in a long line of stories about teenage angst. While good, and far better than Wes Anderson, it's no Romeo & Juliet. I have a suspicion that one reason Juno is rejected in some circles is because its main character is a girl. In Anglo North America, stories about adolescent angst - Wes Anderson or JD Salinger - usually centre on boys.

Art, and more certainly theatre, is ultimately the suspension of disbelief. We are asked to see a representation of something and believe that it is the real thing in some recognizable way. As I watched Juno, it passed my lazy truth-test: "I've met people like this." I can't really vouch for the slang or whether "people like this" would in fact do "things like that". I'm inclined to fall back on my even lazier criteria: "It's only a movie." I was willing to go along with the scriptwriter's story and I was intrigued by one aspect in particular. The young people in this movie, Juno in particular, questioned convention. As Pierre Trudeau wrote, the only thing we can predict about the future is that it will be more "rational" - IOW, in the future, people will not follow pointless convention. Juno and people like her are the future.

When I saw Juno, I noticed that others around me in the cinema took a different interest in the subject than I did. Even though I am not exactly in the demographic for this movie, I enjoyed it because it has a simple story well told. It's an uncomplicated West Side Story. Once we understand the basic drama of the plot (a teenage girl becomes pregnant) and the ensuing conflicts , there is only one plot shift: the adoptive father decides to leave his wife. I liked this simple structure because it left more space for characters. After all, any movie or story about teenage angst must have character at its heart. And this young girl Juno is quite a character.

Edited by August1991
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  • 4 weeks later...

I just watched Juno as well, and thought I'd reply to some of what August wrote here...

Well, Juno is a movie in a long line of stories about teenage angst. While good, and far better than Wes Anderson, it's no Romeo & Juliet. I have a suspicion that one reason Juno is rejected in some circles is because its main character is a girl. In Anglo North America, stories about adolescent angst - Wes Anderson or JD Salinger - usually centre on boys.

I'm not sure in what circles Juno was rejected in... it was a major commercial success by any yardstick, and an overwhelming critical success as well.

Agreed, though, that the teenage angst/coming of age type movie has long centered on male protagonists, with occasional exceptions.

Art, and more certainly theatre, is ultimately the suspension of disbelief. We are asked to see a representation of something and believe that it is the real thing in some recognizable way. As I watched Juno, it passed my lazy truth-test: "I've met people like this." I can't really vouch for the slang or whether "people like this" would in fact do "things like that". I'm inclined to fall back on my even lazier criteria: "It's only a movie."

I also found Juno (the character) to have the ring of truth. In particular I thought the portrayal of her evolving feelings toward her condition, and towards Mark Loring, and towards Bleeker seemed very natural. The script did not hit the viewer over the head with anything, it just unfolded in a way that made sense.

The scene in which she lashes out at Bleeker was especially good, I thought... it took all of the conflicting feelings she's going through, and the feelings toward Paulie that she doesn't even acknowledge yet, and let it out in one hurtful outburst. Even though it makes sense it is still jarring to watch, because this anger is to that point not something we've seen from her. And rather than creating some sort of plot contrivance to set up this release of emotion, the script just has her just walk up to him and pick a fight, and more stuff spills out of her than she knew she had bottled up. Which, in my experience, is how this stuff really happens: sometimes you just go pick a fight because you're mad and you feel like maybe verbally beating up somebody else will make you feel better.

I was willing to go along with the scriptwriter's story and I was intrigued by one aspect in particular. The young people in this movie, Juno in particular, questioned convention. As Pierre Trudeau wrote, the only thing we can predict about the future is that it will be more "rational" - IOW, in the future, people will not follow pointless convention. Juno and people like her are the future.

I'm not really sure. I think that everything she does in the movie is driven by emotion rather than rationality or a questioning of convention. I don't think there's any moment in the movie where you can say she's acting with her head rather than her heart.

I liked this simple structure because it left more space for characters. After all, any movie or story about teenage angst must have character at its heart. And this young girl Juno is quite a character.

I think, probably, that this is the essence of what made the movie such a success. A likeable actress with a very good script.

-k

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Being someone of the demographic for this movie and having quite a few friends who all adore this movie I am going to have to agree that the movie demonstrates what we hope the future of decision making wil be like. And knowing girls who have had to make some hard decisions at young ages - it is what is happening - atleast in the realm of young females who are now in their 20's. I can't speak for the younger generation who are teens now - although they have access to far more information and resources to make good decisions even when they are hard ones - it seems that alot of these teens are sticking the the superficial and easy ways and there is a certain amount of fear that all the good hard decisions that people who are in their mid 20's and 30's now had to make are being erased in a way by a culture of drones created by TOO much information and easy media that keeps them placated. Hopefully there are more "Junos" than "myspace camera angle girls" in the future.

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Being someone of the demographic for this movie and having quite a few friends who all adore this movie I am going to have to agree that the movie demonstrates what we hope the future of decision making wil be like.
If so, Trudeau's prediction seems safe.

In the future, individuals will be more "rational" in their decisions because they will know better the consequences of their actions - tradition and reputation are not the same thing.

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