Warning – contains spoilers
It’s taken me a week to get over Juno. I saw it last weekend, geared up by the glowing reviews and Oscar receipts. I found out The Moldy Peaches were on the soundtrack well in advance, being a reader of Pitchfork who’s admired the lo fi twosome since their album came out in 2001. It’s fair to say I was looking forward to this film. It’s also fair to say I was massively disappointed by what I saw. I’ll go further… I was bloody annoyed by how utterly shit it is.
First off – Ellen Page’s performance as the eponymous Juno. Ok – so the dialogue she had to work with is soul-crushingly leaden and heavy on the half-arsed witticisms. Fine – she was dressed like the most unconvincing ‘geek’ you’ve ever seen… None of this makes up for the fact that she felt the best way to portray an outsider was to walk like a forty year old man and talk like a sarcastic five-year old. Possibly the most unendearing central performance I’ve seen since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. This probably explains how she only has one friend in the whole movie – an unreconstructed airhead character who is treated completely one-dimensionally. Probably the only kind of chum she’d ever be able to make considering she speaks like a written-out Dawson’s Creek extra.
And that dialogue somehow won an Oscar. There is something inherently wrong with the world when critics and the Academy decide that overwritten rubbish like Juno deserves such an accolade. In one of her first exchanges, Juno says something along the lines of ‘I am fo’ shizz pregnant’ whilst speaking on her oh-so-amusingly-kitsch hamburger phone to aforementioned braindead pal. How amusing – a fifteen year old girl appropriating hip hop language. In the same piece of dialogue she says ‘silencio’ instead of shut up. Another example of how swamped this movie is with clunky, unappealing, unrealistic, smugly self-aware speech.
Page’s conversations with Michael Cera – the father of her unborn child – are supposed, I guess, to be charmingly innocent. He is a dork on the running team who can barely communicate. A mummy’s boy, in essence. A character who pretty much shrinks into the background of every scene. Not his fault, really – his dialogue is limited to yelps of unfunny reaction. Their relationship is unbelievable. I never for once believed that they’d met before, let alone procreated.
As the film drones on, Juno’s parents appear to speak in exactly the same kind of cliched child-speak she herself waffles in. So at least we know where she gets it from. But their acceptance of her having become pregnant, again supposedly meant to be endearing, actually stretches credibility to breaking point and from this point on, the film loses any grounding in realism it had already abandonded from the off.
When Juno meets the people she’s giving her baby up for, played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, we see that they are yuppies with a lovely house and many, many rules of behaviour. It turns out that Bateman is actually a bit of a child at heart – he becomes friends with Juno away from the prying eyes of his control-freak wife. They watch horror movies together and discuss grunge music. It is entirely unlikely. And creepy by the end – specifically when we see them slowdancing together, sharing trust that really wouldn’t exist in that set of circumstances.
Bateman leaves his missus, just to add to his character’s bizarre air of creepiness and the baby is eventually given to Garner. This is exasperating. The only point at which she’s been able to attempt to convince us that she’s not an OCD-ravaged bundle of neuroses is when she puts her head to Juno’s swollen tum-tum and goes all maternal. With that one brief scene in mind, we’re meant to believe she’ll make a great mother.
This is patently bullshit. And convenient too, as it means Juno has offloaded her ‘problem’ without having to upset the anti-abortion critics (personified by an offensive Chinese stereotype who can’t say ‘born’ without saying ‘borned’). It also sets up the happy ending perfectly without anyone actually getting damaged by the experience. Indeed, the only result is happiness. Juno gets with her boy and Garner gets her babby (and is somehow miraculously transformed into a great Mum).
The final scene really made me gag on the booze I’d been driven to drinking. A wonderfully understated song on the Moldy Peaches debut album named ‘Anyone Else But You’ is pissed on by Page and Cera, who attempt to reinvent it for the purposes of the movie using badly tuned acoustic guitars. They somehow manage to make a lovely, charming, badly-recorded gem sound like a work of evil. Actual, atrocity-level evil. Page tries to embellish the half-spoken lines with Tori-Amosesque shrieks whilst Cera is devoid of charisma and it is woeful beyond explanation.
It’s a fittingly crap end to a mystifyingly celebrated movie. I advise you to avoid, unless you’re willingly swept-away by faux-quirky fakery on the back of misguided recommendations from film critics who should know so much better.