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It’s funny if it’s not you

In reality, of course, getting knocked up is no laughing matter.

Above: In reality, of course, getting knocked up is no laughing matter.

For some reason, it seemed as if everybody had seen Juno except me. This offbeat, heart-warming tale about unwanted pregnancy and surrogate parenting appeared out of nowhere, catapulting its star, Ellen Page, and its first-time screenwriter, the intriguingly named Diablo Cody, to centre stage. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it bagged itself an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. So, today, I had the opportunity to see it for myself and find out whether the hype was justified.

The answer, in reality, is probably “no”. I wouldn’t call it the greatest film of the last year by any stretch of the imagination, but, at the same time, it’s hard to deny that I enjoyed it considerably. What I liked about this film is that, although superficially the plot is straight out of Movie of the Week territory, it does an admirable job of avoiding sentimentality or mawkishness.

Highlight below to reveal spoiler text:

There’s never any danger that Juno will get all broody and decide she wants to keep the baby. Likewise we don’t have to endure her wrestling with her consciousness as she decides whether or not to abort. She decides fairly quickly on her course of action and then never wavers from it. That’s refreshing.

I can’t say I was particularly enamoured by many of the characters, though. I found the script to be incredibly smug and, occasionally, verging on obnoxious, with the dialogue often sounding like an imitation of the sort of speech patterns that were to be found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and yes, it’s true, everyone in this film more or less does speak with the same “voice”). The whole thing is a massive overdose of pop culture references and calculatedly “quirky” dialogue… oh, and I can only put Juno’s summation that Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore is a better film than Suspiria down to the assumption that being pregnant does strange things to your system. I’m still slightly amazed to hear the name of Dario Argento actually being spoken in a mainstream film, though.

I did enjoy it overall. I wouldn’t class it as a masterpiece, but it’s fun and at times quite amusing - one of the few feel-good films I can think of that doesn’t make me want to go and throw up afterwards.

Oh yeah, and has anyone seen this video? I must confess it made me laugh more than the film itself. (“Oscar, I smell ya later!”)

 
Posted: Tuesday, March 04, 2008 at 7:24 PM | Comments: 10
Categories: Cinema | Dario Argento | Reviews | Web

 
Comments

1.

I remember Juno saying Wizard of Gore was nearly as good as Suspiria, not better, but maybe I am trying to erase that moment off my memory.

But I certainly enjoyed the film more than you did and found it hilarious. We finally get am movie about American teenagers showcasing how they really talk, not written by some 45-year old with no connection to them.

I loved the pop culture references, the quirky dialogue, actually I am shocked you didn't like it considering you like Buffy.

Not the best film of last year, but a nice surprise. I loved the characters, the dialogue, everything, but one needs to remove that Dario Argento scene.

Funny parody BTW, though most of the Diablo Cody bashing I see always sounds too much like jealous writers.

Posted by: Marcus, March 4, 2008 10:53 PM

2.

She initially dismisses the surrogate father’s claim that Argento is “just okay” and that HG Lewis is the king of gore, but it then cuts to them both watching it and Juno saying “Wow, this is better than Suspiria” or words to that effect.

Do any American teenagers actually talk like that? Because I felt the dialogue sounded pretty fake. Some of the exchanges did make me laugh, but it never felt like natural speech to me at all. And I have to say I cringed when one of the characters said “honest to blog” - before I saw the film, I had only seen the parody video, and assumed that that was something they had made up (like the “Someone squirted jelly in my belly” line).

Posted by: Whiggles, March 4, 2008 11:35 PM

3.

You can't really pinpoint what the average American teenager talks like, but I think Juno was pretty spot-on on the group that Juno belonged to. I can assure you they don't talk like they do on the larger majority of high school movies, or WB-TV teen dramas.

I was also guilty of saying a lot of those phrases back in the day. Made me so nostalgic.

I also fail to see the pop culture references as a minus, sure a lot of them are either false or innacurate (Morgan Freeman did not star in The Bone Collector, Wizard of Gore is not better than Suspiria, Thundercats are not go [Thunderbirds are]) it does give a more sense of reality to it. People do talk about pop culture and make references to it in real life.

I saw the movie before the hype you could say, no box-office results or Academy Award win. So it didn't have to live up to anything, I was surprised and really liked the film. Way better than Judd Apatow comedies such as the similar themed "Knocked Up".

Posted by: Marcus, March 5, 2008 12:38 AM

4.

Dont believe the hype. This is another pretencious, boring, crapy teenage film that desperatly tries to be cool and clever, AVOID!

Posted by: ARCVILE, March 5, 2008 1:08 AM

5.

It's too late, he already saw it. :D And I disagree, I really liked this film.

Posted by: Marcus, March 5, 2008 3:08 AM

6.

Criticisms aside, I really liked it too. I perhaps overly stressed the parts I didn’t like in my little mini-review, but I hope to readdress that balance when I do my full review of the upcoming Blu-ray release. I suppose I was just intrigued that, despite it winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, more or less all of my criticisms stemmed from issues I had with the script.

Posted by: Whiggles, March 5, 2008 7:01 AM

7.

"Shit Sandwich"

Posted by: , March 6, 2008 1:09 AM

8.

I'm sorry, HG Lewis is better than Argento? Lewis was an absolute hack. Yes, he introduced the whole concept of 'gore for gore's sake' to cinema, but Blood Feast has to be one of the most hilariously incompetent films ever made. If nothing else, it is light years away from the thought and care that went into Suspiria.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, March 8, 2008 4:31 PM

9.

The main problem with Juno is that it is written by smug self-satisified adults who 1) think they know how young*er* people think and talk and 2) think that they can sucessfully characterise an entire generation by having them speak in only one way (and a wrong way).

Most teenagers are stupid, befuddled, mismatched, non-eloquent to the point of banality. Give me that film any day.

It's all horribly horribly over-laded with referencing and feyness and arch look-at-me-isms that it just shouldn't be watched by anyone, ever.

Shame, because Ellen Page was fantastic in Hard Candy.

Marcus >> But I certainly enjoyed the film more than you did and found it hilarious. We finally get am movie about American teenagers showcasing how they really talk, not written by some 45-year old with no connection to them.

That's the marketing ploy, anyway... (I think I remember watching Newsnight Review and screaming at the resolutely middle-*aged* panel - or the TV - because they were gushing over how accurate a portrayal it all was.)

Man, it just goes to show that the generational gap is vaster than ever if supposed adults are eating up the image of the youth as presented in american TV, and not using their own eyes.

Posted by: Rob, March 9, 2008 9:27 AM

10.

Oh yeah, and the Buffy thing:

Buffy - hyper-real dialogue AND IT KNOWS IT.
Juno - hyper-real dialogue PURPORTED AS REAL.

Posted by: Rob, March 9, 2008 9:29 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 31st 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

http://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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