So at this point Al and I have approximately 40 articles under our belt, yes, our blog is still a wee fledgling but now is when we start to wander into “pissing off our friends/everyone” territory. I believe Al already ventured there in his Shaun of the Dead (2004) article. I did not decide on Juno originally, but after realising that ripping into my first film choice would probably upset quite a few friends I decided to back off. I’m weak willed like that.
I settled on Juno instead, even though this film is well liked by people I know, it’s been around long enough that you’ve mostly forgotten about it. I’m going to say it now, I do not like and never have liked Juno. I’m sorry. I feel I have some pretty good reasons for this, so, please hear me out.
Juno was released when I was 17, I remember it being pretty widely discussed at the time. Like usual, the hype was off-putting for me. When I eventually watched it, I remember I didn’t think much of it. I hadn’t watched it since and never felt the need to, the only need being for this blog. It’s current rating on IMDb is 7.5 although on release it was rated higher. It came at a time when these films were on trend. The noughties were definitely the “Era of Twee”. Please don’t mistake this article as a hatred of twee, there are many films that achieve a proficient level of twee-ness without verging into cringiness. Juno isn’t one of them.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) is a good example of a film that does the twee thing relatively well. Instead of the twee being forced to the point that it is oozing from my television set, like in Juno, the twee is used quite successfully to balance out some of the darker themes in the film i.e. suicide and depression. Whereas in Juno, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody are so desperate to squeeze every bit of twee in that they gloss over some of the more serious aspects of teenage pregnancy.
Juno MacGuff: I’m so quirky I drink Sunny D from a 5-litre bottle and I have a burger phone. *
Am I a massive cynic? Yes, most of the time, but just because you felt all warm inside at the absurd finale (Juno immediately breaks into a duet with Michael Cera after jumping off a bike she had been riding and isn’t even out of breath musical finale) of this film does not mean it’s not massively flawed. Juno is a “coming-of-age” story of a girl called (surprise surprise) Juno who gets knocked up after having planned sex with Michael Cera who plays Michael Cera. The sex was so planned that they even forgot to use a condom. Fickle Juno after briefly visiting an abortion clinic decided instead to offer her baby up for adoption with unlikely couple Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman). Some stuff that would seem mildly calamitous to a middle-class suburban 16-year-old happens and then everyone lives happily ever after. What’s the problem with this? Well, Juno doesn’t ever dare to delve into some of the consequences of teenage pregnancy such as the toll it would have on her body and how the pregnancy would affect her school life. Juno completely pussyfoots around exactly why teenage pregnancies are a pretty unpleasant situation to be in and instead trades it in for unrealistic and wacky exchanges for humour purposes, but even the humour falls short. In the end, it brings nothing to the table about the highly difficult decisions young pregnant females must make and the emotional turbulence they are going through, whether the pregnancy was their mistake or not.
This isn’t the film’s only problem, we are also faced with incredibly contrived dialogue that is so unrealistic and forced that at times I felt myself physically cringing. For me, most of the characters were unlikable, particularly Juno, whereas I do find Ellen Page quite likable in reality. To be frank, at times Juno’s character is a complete asshole. Juno is clued up and smart enough to make a point of how Vanessa only allows Mark to have one room in the whole house to himself yet I’m supposed to believe that she is stupid enough to make a comment about how Vanessa, the women who is unable to have a child and is desperate for one, is lucky that she isn’t the one who is pregnant. Juno is shallow, self-involved, petty, jealous and manipulative. Not only that but she consciously and deliberate visited Mark to entice him. Juno is a piece of work. Maybe you would think that I should give her some slack because she is a 16-year-old, but clearly, I never did anything wrong when I was a teenager so it totally reasonable for me to look down my nose at her. Ahem.
Mark is also a piece of work, he doesn’t love Vanessa anymore but he goes ahead and sets up an adoption ad, gets a lawyer and almost completes the adoption process before getting creepy with Juno and then tells Vanessa he wants them to separate. This is in full knowledge of Vanessa deep need to be a mother, instead of being honest with Vanessa in the beginning he waits until the worst moment to doubly break Vanessa’s heart. If anything, he’s a monster.
Juno MacGuff: Hi Michael Cera, I’m going to have sex with you without protection and then when you say you want to be with me even when I’m pregnant, I’m going to snub you and tell you to go out with someone else. When you do go out with said person I’m going to be an utter bitch and then later randomly tell you that I love you. Yup. *
Not only that but Juno seems to have absolutely no attachment to her own baby to the point of being heartless. We all know that in reality giving a child up for adoption would most likely leave an emotional scar that you would probably carry for the rest of your existence. All in all, I feel Juno is an empty, overrated and superficial film (with a side order of casual homophobia) that tries way too hard and never should have been given the praise it was handed.
Please don’t hate me.
*These quotes are all completely made up in case you couldn’t tell.