Thoughts on Juno

Typically when Hollywood reaches into the Issue Hat and drags out something like teen pregnancy, you end up with a preachy, angst-ridden hour and a half of boredom.

Like the awful Spike storyline on Degrassi Junior High—Teen Mom and Teen Dad are full of Anxiety and Guilt, knowing that their parents will be Overprotective and Judgmental (along with every other Authority Figure in town).  Peers will shun Teen Mom, former fast friends will denounce her as an Irresponsible Skank, and be especially insensitive.  Teen Dad will Refuse to Accept Responsibility, and, in the end, Abandon his former mate.  Teen Mom will waver between abortion, adoption, and raising the kid as her own.  The ultimate outcome depends on which blinkered ideology the screenwriter and director subscribe to—Pro Misery, Pro Death, or Pro Yuppie Vanity Fulfillment.

I’m happy to report that Jason Reitman’s Juno is a welcome departure from that time-worn formula, and it’s about twice as funny and clever and thoughtful as I imagined it would be.  I don’t want to say too much about the plotline—there’s only so many outcomes a teen pregnancy can have—but suffice to say that it’s not a long and boring Issue of the Week sermon.  If I am going to fault this fresh new movie for anything, it is Aaron Sorkin Syndrome—virtually every character comes factory-equipped with the same sharp wit and oodles of snappy dialogue.  It’s a relatively minor quibble, but is heavily underscored by the presence of actors notable for previous portrayals of fast-talking razor-wits—like J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney.

The other thing I’m going to fault this film for is the music, much of which is provided by a young lady named Kimya Dawson.  Ms. Dawson’s work in this picture is allegedly part of a genre called neo-folk or anti-folk.  It purports to take your typical ’60s politically-aware folk trash and turn it on its head with decidedly non-agitprop themes.  Fine.  In terms of musical structure it’s still called “folk music” though.  It smells like folk, sounds like folk, and quacks like folk.  And I hate folk music.  Folk music is the devil’s work—bland, boring and stupid.

If I ever become a billionaire, I am going to fund a massive time-travel project like the Department of Pre-Crime in Minority Report.  A trio of pre-cogs floating in saltwater baths will scour the planet’s thoughtwaves for evidence of folk-music composition, and when they detect it, a team of heavily trained agents will materialize out of the clear blue sky and kick the writer/composer/musician in the nads (or in the ass, if they have no nads)—before they have a chance to compose more snooze-inducing folk music.  Regettably this means Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot and Roger Whittaker are in for a lifetime of nad-kicking.  Think of it as a feature, not a bug.  The important thing is that this project—if fully funded—has the potential to end misery for millions, exponentially improving quality of life on our planet.

Anyway, despite the sucky music, I still liked the film.  I don’t think it’s going to change the world and I don’t think Ellen Page is the Next Great Actress, but it is noteworthy for being an atypical take on an unusual subject, in a genre where one-dimensional cutouts and arm-waving angst are the norm.  Highly recommended.

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