Friday, January 25, 2008

If Juno wins anything other than Best Actress, I'll gnaw my arms off - SendMeRSS

Look, I liked Juno. I didn't love it, but I liked it. The performances were great (though given a cast consisting of Ellen Page, Michael Cera, JK Simmons and Jason Bateman, calling the acting "great" is like describing the sun as "room temperature"), it had some good laughs, and it dealt with its potentially awkward or laughable plot in a mature, adult way.

But that doesn't mean I understand why it's been nominated for every single Academy Award known to man. 

For while Juno is most assuredly a good and enjoyable film, it seems to take just a little bit too much pride out of its "indie" status, much in the same way Little Miss Sunshine did last year. The characters are quirky just for the sake of quirkiness -- Michael Cera does what he can with his shallowly-written character whose only identifiable character traits are the customary indie shyness and an oddball addiction to Tic-Tacs, while Ellen Page occasionally manages to imbue some real emotion into Juno when she isn't being forced to spout whipsmart comebacks at 80 miles an hour  -- and the dialogue is far too clever for its own good. 

Labeling dialogue as "too clever" might seem blasphemous to anyone who hasn't seen the film, but it oddly holds true: within our first few minutes of meeting Juno, she says something clever, derisive, and sarcastic. From that point on, she never stops. Everything that exits her mouth, frequent repetition of the word "dude" notwithstanding, is the sort of thing no one would ever have the quick wits to speak aloud, even when not dealing with the trials and tribulations of teen pregnancy. Diablo Cody's screenplay prioritizes clever, ever-quipping character jokes over out-and-out honesty -- kind of an odd decision given that the actual moments of action in the story (Juno's ultimate decision on what to do with the baby, for example) otherwise ring true.

The world of Juno is a weirdly schizophrenic one -- the characters have affecting, legitimate things to do and stories to tell, but neither director nor screenwriter seem as interested in those stories as they do making weirdly-placed (if hilarious) references to the Thundercats. Just when we're about to believe everything the film has to tell us as if it were gospel, Juno makes the most brilliant, clever joke she could possibly make given the circumstances, which no person would ever make, and the tower of emotional cards goes a-crumbling.

But don't get me wrong, I do generally enjoy the movie (though I cannot for the life of me understand the purpose of the Jason Bateman/Ellen Page romantic arc). I just really, really hope the Academy doesn't prize meaningless-but-clever one-liners over genuine human emotion (The Savages) or gripping political relevance (Michael Clayton). Similarly, should the Coens lose the Best Director award -- especially if they lose it to Jason Reitman -- it will serve as yet another piece of irrefutable proof that the Academy doesn't know what the fuck it is doing. Ellen Page deserves the best actress Oscar, without a doubt, but in a year of No Country For Old Men and The Savages, here's hoping that that's all Juno will get.

Link - Fri, 25 Jan 2008 01:00:00 GMT - Feed (1 subs)

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