Thursday, July 31, 2008
Deconstructing Juno (well, one character)
I was honestly a little hesitant to watch movies again after Dark Knight because there wasn't much out there that could hold a candle to it. I felt more like that after seeing Hellboy II, because that was totally horrible. So I saw Dark Knight again the next day (and it was even better.) This was while I was in San Diego, so it was mostly to kill time, but I really did enjoy DK more the second time.
So, it was with a little reluctance that I watched Juno (I know what you're thinking: Fag!). It had been sitting on my table for several days in its little, red Netflix envelope. I was almost thinking about sending it back unopened and just ordering some old wrestling DVD instead. At least then I wouldn't be setting myself up for disappointment. It's weird, because for a little while I thought that Dark Knight has restored my faith in movies, that it was still possible to make great films that live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. Then the glass became half-empty, and I realized that DK would be a tough act to follow. I comforted myself with the fact that it is at least a completely different kind of movie, so maybe I can enjoy it.
So, Juno... I did enjoy it, on some levels. It had a few kinks; the writing smacked of some young, hip screenwriter who wanted to use big words to impress everyone into thinking that these were smart, witty characters. Please, that trick is as old as I am. It does make for good dialogue, and actors love to chew on that shit, but really, is that how people talk? "What's wrong honey? You look morose." No one's ever said anything like that to me, and I probably look morose a lot.
It seems like the witty banter was just a smokescreen to cover up the fact that the plot was basically every Lifetime movie with a better soundtrack. Oooohh, teen pregnancy... well, there's a wrinkle. BUT, Joe Movie-goer doesn't have as discerning an eye as I do, and wants to believe in things, so that fact is glossed over. But I'm not Joe Movie-goer.
Before you think me a monster for ragging on this heart-warming, coming-of-age tale (To quote The Joker, "I'm not really a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."), I did identify strongly with one character in the film more than the others ('cause, lets face it, isn't Juno MacGuff a bit of a shit?), and I'm sure close friends know who it is. Gumbo! It's Jason Bateman. The poor guy who married the wrong woman, a woman who pushed him around and made him give up on his dreams and live a nice, quiet, boring life in the suburbs, a woman who made him stack his guitars, his comics, his life in the basement because they didn't fit her ideal of what life should be. his character was the most brilliantly written and acted of all of them because it was very subtly done from the first time you met him. He comes down the stairs, obviously uncomfortable in his faggoty, blue sweater, and yes, my first reaction was "What a geek!" Which was exactly what the audience was supposed to think. It's only as the film goes on that we see that he wasn't always like this. He had a band and a prom date and he loves gory horror movies, but at some point he got married to a hot chick and Whoosh! Buh-bye. My favorite line may have been when he said something like, "Vanessa lets me keep a room for my stuff," and Juno sarcastically says, "You're on a long leash, dude." When Jennifer garner comes to yell at him for playing his guitar, I felt ssssooooo bad for that guy because I've seen it with enough of my friends to know a terrible truth: that scene was as real as it gets for them.
Take heed, ye men, of Mark Loring. He may be the villain of this movie, because it was from Juno's perspective, but it could just as easily have gone the other way. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where if you flip-flop it and look at it from Nurse Ratchet's perspective, this crazy dude just comes in and fucks up her whole life. I think a really seasoned screenwriter could have taken Juno and called it Mark Loring, made you care about him, have the same result, and we'd still have an Oscar contender (but okay, Ellen Page is cuter than Jason Bateman, so they chose the easy road. Who can't sympathize with a pregnant teenager?)
In many "guy" circles, it's a big joke. The leash, who wears the pants in the family, cracking the whip, what have you. We laugh so that we do not cry, my friends. But there's nothing funny about it (Take it from me. I'm The Joker.) Look at it this way: at least Mark Loring had the balls to leave.
Posted by Matt Dursin at 9:22 PM