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.


  1. idlepanda Said,

    December 27, 2007 @ 10:58 am

    You put words to feelings that I’ve been struggling to express. I admit that I’ve been avoiding Juno because every time I watch the trailer I get a little nauseous, and the unending discussion of Diablo Cody’s (what a name!) previous employment is driving me up the wall. I do like Ellen Page, who is from my neck of the woods, so I will give it a go, but I’m not rushing out to see it just yet.

    Have you seen Death at a Funeral? Its budget was in the range of 9 million, nearly twice that of Juno’s, but it hasn’t received nearly as much attention. I’d love to know how much was spent on Juno’s marketing.

  2. Dylan Said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

    I guess my quibble with your review is that I don’t really see what makes this “dysfunctional family indie comedy.” There’s nothing really dysfunctional about this particular family (setting aside the fact that the 16-year-old daughter is pregnant which, I thought, made the warmth of the film more of a factor (whereas it could have, in the hands of another director, taken more of a cold/steely turn through the eyes of the pregnant teen).

    Maybe it’s semantics, but I think it’s semantics worth exploring considering that your expressed ambivalence about this sort of quirky indie film isn’t the first one I’ve heard.

  3. Chuck Said,

    January 28, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

    Dylan, that’s a good point. Her parents are generally supportive, particularly her mom during the ultrasound scene. I think the Jen Garner-Jason Bateman marriage suggests some form of “dysfunction,” but that word isn’t quite apt here. Maybe I should have stuck with my Yet Another Quirky Indie distinction. I think my other objection to the film’s depiction is that this isn’t an independent film.

    idlepanda, I somehow missed your comment, but the discussion of Cody’s previous occupation has been way overblown. And the marketing budget for the film could be used to make 20 indie films, probably. I have to admit that I’ve been intrigued by the retooling of the marketing that has toned down the humor and placed more emphasis on the movie’s “heartwarming” qualities.

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