In honor of the Oscars next Sunday, I thought I would devote this week to the five films nominated for Best Picture. Previously: Michael Clayton.
Juno is an engaging and stimulating story that is instructive without being preachy, stirring without being sappy, and edgy without being crude.
Contrary to commenter “Nobody’s” distaste for the film, I found Juno remarkable for its remarkable balance of humor and gravitas. Some of the dialogue certainly is reminiscent of forty-year-olds trying to sound like teenagers, but much of this is only at the beginning. As the movie progresses, Juno loses her teenage verbiage, and the movie takes on a more adult (read: normal) tone. It is a welcome transition.
Despite its shortcomings, Juno is a delightful story that illuminates many of the problems of American youth culture. Juno, a high school girl, gets pregnant with her boyfriend and is forced to decide between aborting the child or giving it up for adoption.
On the one hand, there is reason to cheer Juno’s decision to have the baby. The directors do not shy away from the issue, presenting the abortion clinic that Juno visits in a rather unfavorable light.
In addition, the movie makes clear a deep problem within American home life—there are no men to speak of in the film. Juno’s father is clearly uninvolved, despite his clichéd “wisdom”—I disagree with nearly every platitude he puts forth—he offers near the end of the film. Juno’s boyfriend pathetically abdicates his responsibility for the child, leaving Juno to handle the situation on her own. The husband of the couple adopting Juno’s child decides to divorce his wife to pursue (in rather juvenile fashion) his own desires and dreams, which a baby would clearly inhibit.
If anything, the absence of strong masculine leadership is partly why Juno is so endearing as a character. If she doesn’t take responsibility and leadership for the situation, it would never be resolved. That strength is to her credit, and a damning indictment of the men in her life.
On the other hand, Juno decides to give the baby up to a mother whose husband is divorcing her. The decision is disturbing, for it indicates that the filmmakers are comfortable separating children from the stability of a two-parent household. What matters more, apparently, than having a man around to help raise a child is having a mother who is (problematically) devoted to the idea of having children.
Juno won’t win Best Picture. But it deserves to be considered.
It takes a complex situation very seriously, but manages to be lighthearted and sincere about it at the same time. Though it is not a perfect film (ideologically or technically), it is a very good film that is vastly more enjoyable than Michael Clayton.