Sunday, 9 March 2008

"I was more broke than a telly with a foot through it."

James Nesbitt, a SLLU supporter, reviews the film, "Juno".

Hurrah for Orange Wednesdays! They recently allowed me to catch Juno, the latest Oscar-winning movie for the booming Geek market, even though I was more broke than a telly with a foot through it.

The film gets straight to the point as bored 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) shags her best pal, loveable nerd Bleeker. After discovering she's preggers, Juno has to deal with the consequences for herself and everyone around her. We laugh and cry as a sarky teenager tries to deal with hostility and disappointment.

Exploring the theme of the transformative effects of parenthood, Juno forms an interesting relationship with the baby's prospective adoptive father, Mark. Both, despite the large age-gap between them, are trying to preserve their identity in the face of the pressures of pre-designated roles.

Their resistance to seriousness stands in comparison to Mark's wife Vanessa, who’s desperate to have children and sees this as her life's purpose. This career-woman-turned-bride has prematurely jettisoned her youth in order to become the textbook version of 'mother' – despite her lack of child. Vanessa strives to create the perfect life through the perfect marriage and home, but the cracks soon begin to appear.

Juno's step-mum, Bren, is a variation on the mother figure: neurotic, insensitive to the needs of a young adult; while sound in domestic maintenance and extremely caring of children. At key moments, though, youthful wit break forth - when shooting down a judgemental ultrasound technician, and when reassuring Vanessa: "You look like a new mom. You look scared shitless." At these points, she seems to revert to a younger version of herself, before she submitted to the roles of Adult and Mother.

Being young means humour and intelligence, despite crises like drug addiction and public humiliation. This is demonstrated by the reams of hilarious chat between Juno and her fellow school students. The dialogue is both strength and weakness - I laughed loads, but grew tired of a script that tried hard to be clever.

So, does Juno call on us to reject commitment and get our tubes tied? Not quite. A permanent escape from the straitjacket isn’t on offer. We have mixed feelings when Mark decides to ditch the wife and become a rock star. Juno, from whom he expects sympathy, begs him to change his mind. And Vanessa lets her anti-humour guard slip, making a snide remark about his new apartment.

Juno does well to examine the under-explored issue of teenage pregnancy, but I had some problems with it. The film resolves itself with a saccharine ending as Vanessa is happy with baby, and Juno and Bleek get back together and strum guitars. This is in keeping with the general ‘twee’ trend, currently ascendant in indie music as well as film. IMO, tweeness is partly to blame for one of the film’s big failings - fluffing the issue of abortion. Our heroine is dissuaded from doing so by a bad pong, a punk gabbering about spunk and worst of all, a depiction of a comedy Oriental girl who can’t quite speak English properly - “babies want to be borned” (hurgh hurgh) - who mounts a ‘pro-life’ picket.

It’s a shame that such a forward-thinking film wasn’t brave enough to portray the reality of getting a termination in America. The people outside abortion centres are violent fundamentalists, not cartoon caricatures. In real life, most women in an unwanted pregnancy don’t get a happy ending. Hollywood and the rest of the world need to face up to America’s secret shame.

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Sarah Hall said...

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