starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simons and Allison Janney
written by Diablo Cody
directed by Jason Reitman
You’ve almost got to love a film written by a woman named “Diablo Cody.” She sounds diabolic, and without knowing anything about her, my first impression was a cross between Aleister Crowley and Buffalo Bill.
Juno is the story of a 16-year-old Minnesotan high school student, Juno MacGuff, who gets pregnant but decides to carry her baby to term and then give it up for adoption rather than seek an abortion. I was immediately reminded of the 1993 Colm Meaney film, The Snapper, which I didn’t like because I thought it was really crass and more than a little obscene. (I respect Meaney’s acting, but ...)
I don’t know what kind of girl I am.
It is interesting that in an election year in the U.S. the Juno character, and also Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s pregnant, unwed teenage daughter, Bristol, became some kind of heroines for right wing conservatives in that country. I mean, rather than being vilified as morally obtuse and ostracized as socially deviant because they are unwed mothers - or, rather than vilifying the film for glamorizing an unwed mother - the fictional character and the real Bristolwere idolized for their morally brave decisions not to have abortions. In America, of course, this issue of abortion is blown way out of proportion and is used as a litmus test not just for politicians but for everyone’s position in the “culture war.” In Canada, where the film was actually shot (in Vancouver), abortion is much less of a social or political issue. Oh, sure, there are some right wing political and religious conservatives in Canadawho ape the American conservative agenda. But since Canada is at heart much more of a social democracy than America the right wing in Canada is not nearly as ideologically driven, or extreme as it is south of the border. Rightly so, I think, and thank God! The result is that in Canada, instead of getting so morally incensed over issues like abortion, people simply opt not to participate in it if they disagree with it. The same is true of books in a public library or school. In Canada, instead of trying to ban books like what so many religious conservatives in America do, most people simply do not read books if they disagree with them. (Although it begs the question how one can disagree with a book that one hasn’t read.)
I suppose some family planners and women’s rights people might condemn the film for belittling the ordeal of teenage, unwed motherhood. And I can see the point. It takes something which is not to be favored and makes it look appealing. That’s a dangerous message, or a dangerous model for some teenager girls, I suppose. Not any of the real girls I knew when I was growing up, but ...
Juno is a real character. She is a marginal girl, very bright but sarcastic, a loner and a weirdo. I loved her. I was immediately reminded of the film Ghost World (2001, directed by Terry Zwigoff) starring Scarlett Johanssen and Thora Birch as similarly off-beat, even Gothic high school girls. I dig the weird females. The most poignant line of the film for me was when Juno broke the news to her father and step-mother. Her father, played by J.K. Simmons whom I really like as a character actor, says with disappointment,
“I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.”
“I don’t know what kind of girl I am.”
Do any of us? Especially when we’re 16?