Friday, December 28, 2007

Review: "Juno"

Going into Juno, the latest comedy from director Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) after hearing months of ecstatic buzz from fellow bloggers, critics, and pundits, I was expecting a comedy for the ages - brilliant, timeless, and heartfelt. What I saw instead is quite possibly the most overrated movie of the year.

Not that it was a bad film, but Juno is never for a second as great as its reputation, and is inferior in every way to Adrienne Shelley’s similarly themed but infinitely more charming Waitress.

My biggest problem with the film, interestingly enough, was Diablo Cody’s much ballyhooed screenplay. Whereas most people have seen charm and wit, I saw self conscious quirkiness and an excessive smugness that I found off-putting.

It all centers around a precocious 16 year old girl named Juno, who after a single night of passion with her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera) becomes pregnant, and decides to find put it up for adoption. She finds an ad in a sale paper for a couple of wealthy yuppies (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) who are desperate for a child of their own, and ends up forging an unexpected relationship with them as her pregnancy causes her to grow up faster than she had originally planned.

It’s not a wholly original premise, but Reitman treats the material well. The film is moderately likable, and coasts on Page’s winning personality. But the real shining light of Juno is Garner, who turns in a heartbreaking performance as a woman who wants nothing more in the world than to be another, but can’t do it on her own. She is the emotional core, and the only thing that really lends the film any gravity.

The rest seems to be filled with zinging one-liners but very little substance. Yes the jokes are clever, but I never felt a beating heart behind them outside of Garner.

Now I know it sounds like I think this is a bad film. I don’t. I just felt the need to explain why I don’t like it as much as everyone else seems to. I have seen many other comedies that I thought were better in 2007 - I thought Margot at the Wedding was sharper, Waitress was sweeter, Knocked Up was funnier, Superbad had more teenage insight, and Great World of Sound was more original.

Juno is a well enough made film, it should put dreck like The Heartbreak Kid to shame, but this is no masterpiece. Nor is it anywhere near Best Picture material, the way many have been saying. It is a pleasant diversion with some funny one liners and nice moments (mostly courtesy of Garner), but overall I found the experience, well…lacking.

I know I’m in the minority here, and maybe I missed something. Who knows, I may return to it another day in another frame of mind and feel differently. But right now I feel that Juno is an OK film that got mistaken for a great one, and is the most grossly over-praised film of 2007.

GRADE - **½ (out of four)

JUNO; Directed by Jason Reitman; Stars Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney; Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language

4 comments:

cjKennedy said...

At last! Someone else who was as underwhelmed by this thing as I was.

No offence to the many people who love it, good luck to you all and enjoy, but I'm mystified as to what people are so excited about.

Now I think I know how all the people who hated Little Miss Sunshine last year felt. I wasn't one of them, I thought LMS was fine, but to have it crammed down your throats as the bestest cutest funniest thing ever must've been horrible if you weren't buying it.

Matthew Lucas said...

Indeed! Everyone around me was cackling the whole time...I only cracked a smile a few times. I enjoyed LMS as well, but grew tired of it after it got nominated for Best Picture (especially at the expense of the groundbreaking "Children of Men").

Cute and funny does not a best picture make.

Nick Plowman said...

I was far from underwhelmed, but different strokes for different folks...

Dr. Shocker said...

Brilliant blog. Not only is Juno overrated, I would go as far as saying, it failed its purpose. Not only did I not care for the Juno character, I wished ill-will on her.