When Juno came out a few years ago I was sort of living under a rock, at least as far as movies were concerned. I didn’t notice. And maybe that was just as well. Because when I stumbled upon it standing in a book shelf at one of the B&Bs during my recent Scotland trip, I could put it into the DVD player with a mind that was like an unwritten sheet of paper. I didn’t know quite what to expect.
I had no idea of the quite intense discussions it caused among film geeks, where some seem to have believed that it was “too typical indie”, while others claimed it was just an ordinary blockbuster in disguise, an imposer, a shameless and unworthy, disgraceful attempt to flirt with an indie audience. Could such a successful movie ever be considered “indie” anyway?
I’m three years late to the party and when I now have a look at the old discussions, they look kind of silly.
Indie or not, who cares about those categories, really? A good movie is a good movie, period. It doesn’t matter which audience it targeted and who ended up watching it, it doesn’t matter what budget it had or how successful it was in the box office and among the critics.
Has it got a certain level of originality? Does it provide something we haven’t seen a hundred times before? Does it show signs of creativity and passion? Does it entertain me or provoke some thoughts and emotions from me? Has it got charms or even a soul? In the case of Juno, my answer is yes, yes and yes again.
A moral outrage
The story, in case someone else has been living under a rock and also missed this little gem, is quite simple: a 16 year old girl gets pregnant unplanned and decides to go through with the pregnancy, and give the child away to a couple who want to adopt it.
This plot was enough to cause a moral outrage among certain IMDB commenters.
Some are upset that she doesn’t go through with an abortion like “any sensible” teenager would do. How dare she give birth to it? It must be a marketing message from the anti-abortion movement!
Others think that the movie endorses and glorifies unprotected sex and careless behaviour for teenage girls. What if someone sees it and takes impression from it!
And then there are those that complain about the coolness and smartness of Juno. She’s too witty, has a too smart tongue, is too mature for her age! It’s not realistic! 16 year olds aren’t like that?
To tell the truth, I don’t give a crap. Not about the morality (where I think the movie takes a perfectly acceptable stance, not really pointing fingers in any direction, but leaving it to the viewer to think for themselves and decide – if they want to), nor about realism or the lack thereof.
When did we start to expect every character in every movie we see to be realistic? Did I expect Hanna to be realistic? Léon? Amélie? It’s nonsense if you ask me.
My daughter’s favourite
As I arrived home, I told my 17 year old that I had watched Juno and that I thought it was good, having a vague memory of that she also had seen it. It turned out that she had watched it at least ten times, if not more, since it was one of her favourite movies. And do you know what? It made me warm at heart to hear this.
In case anyone is questioning my motives for liking it, I can assure you that I’m not a “pro lifer”. For various reasons, I support the fairly liberal legislation concerning abortions that we have where I live. But unplanned pregnancy, doing abortion or not doing abortion, that’s not what the movie is about, or at least it’s not the point of it, as far as I’m concerned.
Juno portrays a young woman who is capable of reflecting over difficult issues, standing up for herself and taking responsibility for her own sexuality (sic! Yes, I claim she actually does.) We’ve seen a few examples of this kind of young, strong women in recent years, but they’re still pretty unusual. My daughter could certainly have a worse role model than Juno.
I noticed a short post on a fellow blogger’s site the other day titled: “I’m glad this movie exists”. Apparently it was the beginning of a series, and the first movie he highlighted was Children of Paradise.
I’ll take the liberty to use the same phrase regarding Juno.
It’s pretty lightweight; it might not be the kind of film that makes the way into The Short List of The Most Important Movies Ever Made. But I’m truthfully glad that it exists.
Juno (Reitman, US, 2007) My rating: 4/5