This movie was written by Diablo Cody! She was a stripper for a year! Then she was a blogger! A stripblogger! She quit stripping in time to avoid the heroin addiction and was not necessarily molested as a child like many other strippers! It’s just something she did one time! Her name is really Melinda Cartwright or Heather Daniels or some shit but she calls herself Diablo Cody! I bet she has some fire or a sexy devil or something tattooed somewhere on her, that would be awesome! She loves lip gloss! The director is the son of the guy who directed GHOSTBUSTERS and produced all the early Cronenberg movies! This guy also did the movie THANK YOU FOR SMOKING! Get it because it’s like thank you for NOT smoking, only it’s thank you FOR smoking! It’s hard to explain but I love it! THANK YOU FOR SMOKING!
As you can see I have been witness to some of the excruciating advance hype on this year’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or NAPOLEON DYNAMITE or FULL MONTY or whatever the fuck you want to say JUNO is, and I will literally punch the next article I see about Diablo Cody. I will punch it until my knuckles bleed and I will ask it for an apology. This guy Laremy who sends me lists of possible topics for film.com articles included the topic “If I see one more ‘Diablo Cody was a stripper’ article I’m gonna hang myself.” I liked the topic but there was no need for an article, the headline said it all. This was like a week and a half before they had one on the front page of the Seattle Times. So there is a newspaper that does not care about the suicide rate.
I was convinced that 75% of the people who’ve been praising the shit out of this movie were reviewing it from inside their pants. They have crushes on Diablo Cody because she’s cute and outgoing and has a history of showing her boobs. So I did not find most of those rave reviews credible. (In the case of Roger Ebert’s four-star review the crush is not on Cody but on the character Juno. He actually says in his review that he wants to hug her. He does not say anything about holding hands or passing notes, but you know what he means.)
JUNO definitely has most of the problems I expected while reading some of that swill. For example it has the most painfully self-conscious HEATHERS-slang and teenager quips since DISTURBING BEHAVIOR or DAWSON’S CREEK. The guy from HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES who’s now on THE OFFICE has a small scene at the beginning of the movie, and every line Former Stripper Diablo Cody gives him is bad enough to merit public caning in some parts of the world. For some reason he’s teasing this poor girl about having just found out she was pregnant, calls her “mama bear'” and says “That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. That’s one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.” As soon as the strike is over I would like Diablo to provide a written explanation of why it’s supposed to be funny that a guy says “homeskillet.”
And the movie is definitely self-indulgent with all the references to favorite bands and movies and shit, in that way Tarantino does that bugs the shit out of some people, or like the scene in GARDEN STATE where Zak Braff has to talk about the bands he likes. I sort of forgive la Diablo for this, having spent all that hard year on the pole and the other years in the mines or wherever she toiled away earlier in life – she never thought she’d get a movie made so she works every goofy thing she’s obsessed with into her first one. But it makes me squirm sometimes. Is this a motion picture or a Myspace Teen Friendship Profile? Save the top ten lists for the internet. Or is this a new form of communication, movblogging? Whatever she’s trying to do, the bottom line is that WIZARD OF GORE is not better than SUSPIRIA, let’s be serious here Diablo Cody.
And at times it’s clearly coming out of the Wes Anderson Changed My Life school of direction, you can tell by the quirky music and the closeups of ironically tacky clothing or objects. There’s still only one Wes Anderson though, and the sooner this guy and the NAPOLEON DYNAMITE guy and all these commercial directors figure that out the better off society will be.
Also there’s a part where she says “Thundercats are Go” but come on man, it’s those creepy English puppets called Thunderbirds that say they “are go,” not Thundercats. Get it straight lady, do some fuckin research. Don’t we have fact checkers on this thing?
But you know what? All that said, I still liked this movie. As it goes on the wacky wordplay gets toned down and the emotion comes in more. It’s a nice little story about a Cynical Outsider Teen named Juno (would’ve been played by Winona Ryder if this was 15 or 20 years ago) who accidentally becomes pregnant and then builds a relationship with a rich couple looking to adopt her baby. It helps that all the lead actors are really good. The girl is Shadowcat from X-MEN 3, the adoptive mother is Elektra from ELEKTRA, adoptive father is that prick from SILVER SPOONS, biological father is the kid from SUPERBAD who is not the fat one. All are perfectly cast.
I’m not sure Juno is such a great character that the movie needs to be named after her, but she is a good character. A smart girl, kind of abrasive, doesn’t put up with shit, but I bet she does good in school. Her parents are divorced but both her dad (J. Jonah Jameson from SPIDER-MAN – wait a minute what’s going on here, did they cast this fuckin thing at the San Diego comics tournament or what?) and stepmom are goofy but nice people and supportive. And there is no drugs or alcohol involved. So she’s pregnant but not really troubled, not really the Hollywood cliche. Most of the characters are shown as flawed but good people. For example Jennifer Garner’s character is kind of a prissy stick-in-the-mud kind of wife (like the off-campus girlfriend she played on TV’s FELICITY, according to insider tips I have received) but she’s also clearly a loving and sincere person and you expect she will be a real good mother.
And when it comes down to it it’s nice to see a story that’s not your usual Hollywood topic. I would say KNOCKED UP is the better going-through-with-an-unwanted-pregnancy comedy of 2007, but both seem sincere. Some stupid motherfuckers have to politicize everything, so these movies have been accused of being conservative or even right wing propaganda because you know how us lefties are supposed to abort any baby we can. I don’t buy that though. These characters, and I’m guessing the authors of the movies too, are “pro choice,” and this is the choice they make, one that might surprise themselves. That’s why it’s appealing, we see these characters we might have something in common with making a hard choice and taking their life in a direction they never expected. And in the case of JUNO I don’t think she even understands what a nice thing she’s doing. Jennifer Garner says she thinks her purpose in life is to be a mother. What she does not say, except in certain facial expressions, is that she cannot give birth. So it’s kind of sweet that Juno’s mistake helps her fulfill her purpose in life. And what the fuck is wrong with a little sweetness every once in a while?
So despite the “indie” trappings, the abundant hipsterism, the tiresome fetishism of tacky material items, the aggressively quirky soundtrack… despite somebody thinking hey if we hand-write the credits and add a little eraser sound when they go away, wouldn’t that be cute, that would be so home-made, despite there being probaly more one-liners that made me wince than made me laugh… somehow after all this Former Stripper Diablo Cody pulls the landing. The movie ultimately works. There is at least some basis for Diablocodymania other than her camera-ready persona. So after she wins her Oscar for best original screenplay and there are even more articles and the novelty wears off and crushes fade and everybody catches up with me and Laremy and gets sick of fuckin hearing about her and there’s a backlash and everybody hates her… well, at least she doesn’t have to feel like a total asshole. At least she will have something to be proud of. Good for her.
As a postscript I would like to note that I noticed DJ Cut Chemist was playing the chemistry teacher and Emily Perkins from GINGER SNAPS was the receptionist at the abortion clinic. That’s the kind of sharp eye you are dealing with here, I am a real professional. I don’t think Rex Reed is gonna be mentioning Cut Chemist’s role in his review, let’s put it that way. So perhaps I should be in one of these anthologies of the year’s best writing is all I’m saying. I think I have earned my stripes, your stripes, I got plenty of stripes to go around. For your consideration.
Also, in a completely unrelated note I wanted to mention the funniest trailer before this movie, for an import called UNDER THE SAME MOON (LA MISMA LUNA). On the trailer a narrator says, “Not since CINEMA PARADISO – has a film captured the hearts – of audiences around the world.” And that’s it! Isn’t that beautiful? He makes no claim that this movie captures the hearts of audiences around the world. In fact, we can infer that this movie has not captured the hearts of audiences around the world since he is straight up telling us that such a feat has not been accomplished even one time in the past 19 years. (Hey AMELIE, hey BABE, hey the motherfuckin MATRIX, hey highest grossing movie of all time TITANIC – you think you captured the hearts of audiences around the world? Keep tellin yourself that, asswipe. Hasn’t been done since ’88.)
Only time will tell if JUNO will be the one to break the capturing-hearts-of-audiences-around-the-world losing streak, but judging by the reviews so far it looks like a LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, where everybody will love it a little too much and almost make you forget that it’s a worthwhile movie. Oh well, that’s how it goes. Those who are particularly sensitive to hipsterism and ’80s/’90s nostalgia should approach with caution. Younger people should definitely see it though since they will have less aversion to that shit and might relate to the characters more.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.