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Review: Juno

April 16th, 2008


Everyone loves good stories. It’s what the book industry and the film industry are based on. Even the adult industry makes porn with an attempt at a story line no matter how cheesy because they know that people have an appetite for good stories. By now, you must have either seen the movie Juno or have heard some of the endless hype about this small indie comedy from Fox Searchlight that went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and gross over $120 million at the box office.

Does Juno live up to the hype? No. The story with Juno is not the story that the movie is about, but rather the story behind how the movie got made. Case in point, the movie is basically an average John Hughes type teen movie updated for the year 2007. It’s marginally about a teenage girl who gets pregnant after a one night stand with a boy friend of hers and how she deals with her pregnancy. No reinventing the wheel here.

Compare this to the story of how Juno got made. A stripper turns to the web and writes a blog with the salacious name The Pussy Ranch. A Hollywood talent manager surfs the web for porn and comes across said blog. He contacts the stripper and finds a publisher for her memoir Candy Girl: A Year In The Life Of An Unlikely Stripper.

The book does all right. Meanwhile, the manager tells the stripper to write a screenplay. The result is Juno. Now you tell me, which is the more interesting story. They certainly didn’t sell the movie to all the talk shows. Only in Hollywood does there exist the stripper/hooker with the heart of gold.

For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, it comes out on DVD today. Let me be the first to tell you, you aren’t missing much if you haven’t seen this movie. Little Miss Sunshine it ain’t. Don’t get me wrong, the movie isn’t awful. It just isn’t good.

A lot of the problem lies in the script. The story is about something that happens in every day life which means that the potential is there for it to be very good or very boring. The writer, Diablo Cody, desperately doesn’t want the story to be boring so what she does is infuse every single character with non stop witticisms and one liners. The result is that movie doesn’t unfold like a story but rather like a sitcom as filmed by a an indie director. There are no fully formed scenes really. Everything is just a set up for Juno’s witty and sarcastic one liners. There’s also the very amateur problem of trying to make all the characters extra-quirky so that they stand out. For those of you who want to read the script, you can buy the shooting script to Juno here.

But then how did the script for Juno win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, you may ask. Because story is king and Diablo Cody has a killer “Hollywood” story. As for the rest of the movie, I beg to differ with everyone about the performances. The actors are a little too self-aware and the performances are kind of strange hybrid acting halfway between film acting and sitcom acting.

I didn’t really find any of the characters believable except the step-mom at times. Especially the character of Juno. For what she’s going through, she seems awfully nonchalant about it. No morning sickness, no loss of self-esteem over her pregnancy. None of the problems that affect most women during pregnancy.

Of course, those on the Diablo Cody bandwagon will say that Juno is not meant to be a reflection of reality but rather Diablo Cody’s own wicked take on teenage pregnancy. I can see that argument but that would mean that Diablo Cody sees the world as a big sitcom where everyone can get cool points and indie cred with a little sarcasm and name dropping. Sorry, but to me that’s not a very interesting or entertaining world.

Don’t believe the hype. Avoid this movie unless you have nothing better to do. You’re better off renting a teen movie with James Spader in it then watching this dreck.

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