The Academy Awards are still more than a month away (if the WGA strike ends before then) and some have already placed a crown on the head of Jason Reitman’s new film, Juno. With a terrific cast and a widely praised script by Diablo Cody, the film has taken the indie film/arthouse cinema world by storm, and then slowly but surely ignited the general box office (It was the #1 movie in America this past Monday and Tuesday.). While all of this acclaim has been heaped upon Juno, with many stating that this is a quirky gem, it’s actually more a case of the emperor having no clothes.
Sixteen year old Juno MacGuff (played perfectly by Ellen Page) shares a moment of carnal passion with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). The result is, of course, an unwanted pregnancy. Juno mulls over her options before deciding to give the little bundle to a couple seeking to adopt (Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman).
What follows is quirk for quirk’s sake. When you’re name dropping Herschell Gordon Lewis and Dario Argento one minute, then The Runaways, it’s hard not to see how the script is almost asking the actors to look into the camera and state, “See?! See how hip, cool, artsy, and indie us, and by transit of property, this script is?!” Then again, the opening credits sequence cements that fact. And if I hear one more movie have a character mention Sonic Youth as proof they’re down with the street, I’m going to scream. I’m sure this film is all the rage with art school kids just beginning their semester but as a film lover and someone who appreciates all types of cinema (especially those with their own unique voice), it’s really disappointing to see something like Juno, a film that’s not a film but a collection of “hip” dialogue strung together by quirky (there’s that word again…see how unusual they are!) acoustic songs; only Jason Bateman escapes this unscathed. His performance is understated and calm, refreshing in its own way.
One hopes screenwriter Diablo Cody’s next film, Jennifer’s Body (about a high school girl who’s possessed by a demon), aims higher. I cannot see how Juno has gotten such praise. It’s a patchwork, a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie, that offers nothing but the same “clever” wordplay that was tired almost a decade ago. Window dressing and a coat of hipster paint do not an endearing film make and in the rich and flavorful world of cinema, Juno is as hollow as a chocolate Easter bunny.