For this year’s annual Christmas day trip to the theaters, my family saw Juno (IMDB), this year’s candidate for the not-so little indie that could. While I have often expressed some ambivalence about the self-consciously quirky indies about families with hearts of gold (see Sunshine, Little Miss), watching a movie in theaters with my family is a delicate balancing act that borders on Cirque de Soleil skills. And while it is difficult to judge my parents’ response to the film, I came away relatively pleased with the movie, even if many of the best and funniest lines were cited in the trailer.
My reservations about the film are, perhaps, not too hard to guess. I’ve complained before about dysfunctional family indie comedies that seem ready-made to impress at Sundance (The Darjeeling Limited, in particular, was a big disappointment), and the hype surrounding Juno seemed to be leaping off the charts in direct proportion to male reviewers who wanted to meet stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody. Not to mention the striking number of movies about unplanned pregnancies that came out this year. Add to that my own desire to write a somewhat contrarian review of the indie flavor-of-the-month, and I was prepared to be disappointed.
But there were a number of things I liked about the film. Ellen Page’s performance as the witty, somewhat jaded high school junior works relatively well, and Michael Cera is fun as her gawky, Orange Tic-Tac popping boyfriend. Juno’s conversations with Mark (Jason Bateman) about punk rock and indie rock gave both characters additional depth (in fact, it’s interesting that the narrative sides with the punk rock tastes of Juno over the indie tastes of Mark, even if the soundtrack opts for more of an indie flavor). The film’s relatively mature take on teen sexuality and teen pregnancy worked well, and I liked the soundtrack well enough to consider adding it to my iPod. It’s also helping me to reconsider my knee-jerk impulse to dismiss quirky indies or to hold them to higher standards than I do studio films. If there were more movies like Juno in theaters and fewer like Alien vs. Predator 2, there would be little reason for me to complain.