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With the critical accolades, awards nominations (and wins), boffo box-office, a can’t-lose premise, and a fine ensemble directed by the man who made 2005’s best movie (Thank You for Smoking), I don’t think I was looking forward to anything more than Juno. I even had usually reliable friends raving about this thing. One said, “It’s the rare movie where you can believe every good thing said about it.” He has very discriminating tastes, so it didn’t even seem as much like quote-whoring as it looks there, nakedly in print. He acted astonished and impressed, and I decided, “I must see this movie.” Unfortunately, laziness prevailed, so I didn’t bother to see it until two weeks ago…

…and then I nearly walked out before the first scene gave way to the opening credits. The only thing that kept me there, aside from hardly earned money that could no longer be refunded, was all the external goodwill this movie had built up. But right off the bat, my first thought: “This is some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard.” Seems like as good a place as any to start.

The Dialogue, Part I: One Doodle that Can’t Be Undid, Homeskillet

Don’t think I have a problem with stylized, hyper-real dialogue. If you ignore Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, his liberal grandstanding, and the last 15 minutes of Charlie Wilson’s War, a sound argument could be made that Aaron Sorkin writes some of the most interesting, vivid, and poetic dialogue of anybody working today. David Mamet is great when he’s not being a misogynist. Even Paul Thomas Anderson writes some great dialogue. He hasn’t yet mastered third acts or matching “quirky” with “plausible,”* but his dialogue consistently comes in second place (after cinematography) on the list of good things about his movies.

Read this and tell me Juno doesn’t contain some of the worst dialogue in cinematic history: “That ain’t no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be undid, homeskillet.” Marvel at that. If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably remembering Rainn Wilson’s baffling cartoon-character delivery of the line. You’re probably remembering the horrible attempt to throw us in medias res with a frenetic opening scene that doesn’t match anything else in the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re probably wondering what sort of alien language Diablo Cody has chosen for her movie.

Let me tell you: the language in Juno is like that one kid in junior high who’s an outcast, always ridiculed for his utter lack of coolness. So he monitors how the “cool kids” act, what they’re into, what they’re wearing, and he goes out and buys some too-tight acid-washed jeans and has his mom cut holes in them and run them through the dryer 40 times, a leather Members Only jacket, a Ramones t-shirt, a pair of gold-rimmed aviator glasses, a bandanna, and a Raw Punk Classix Vol. 1 tape. Then he comes to school on Monday, and he’s ridiculed for trying so fucking hard to be hip and cool, to transform himself from the outcast with the periodic table of elements t-shirt to the badass who shoves sticks into dead squirrels in the woods behind the public library.

There’s a nearly imperceptible line between being just cool enough and trying so hard you embarrass yourself. Diablo Cody’s dialogue goes so far past that line you can’t even see it on the horizon, creating a screenplay that wants to be quotable but is so loaded with unnecessary verbiage and trying-hard-to-be-obscure-without-being-in-any-way-obscure pop culture references that it’s almost as unquotable as any given sentence on this blog. Can’t people just talk? Why try to force it by making everything so florid and rhymey and alliterative and just plain unnatural?

There’s an inherent musicality in natural conversation, even conversation riddled with pop culture references, à la Kevin Smith. Diablo Cody doesn’t have enough confidence in her story or characters (not even flawless Juno) to just let the people talk. Every line has to sound like Kerouac on mushrooms. If this had been done in a clever attempt to show that Juno herself masks crippling self-doubt, the horrible dialogue would have been justified. Juno can’t have self-doubt, though; she’s perfect. Also, the fact that every character who isn’t Vanessa sounds exactly like Juno just points to lazy/awful writing. Nothing clever here.

The Dialogue, Part II: Thundercats Are Go!

I would have cut this movie so much slack if it had been set in 1995 instead of 2007. It would still have awful dialogue, but at least it wouldn’t destroy what little credibility it has by making references a 2007 16-year-old would never, ever say, probably never even know.

Let’s start with the stupidest and most obvious: “Thundercats are go!” Aside from trying way too hard to be “wacky” and “clever” (which I will dive into more when I discuss the character of Juno), would any kid born after 1990 know or care about Thundercats? Would they go the extra mile to combine it with a Thunderbirds reference (a reference she’d be even less likely to know)? Would their parents have a clue what they were talking about? Have they even played reruns of Thundercats since it went off the air? I could see a kid born 10 years earlier knowing and making this reference. (And yes, I know plans were recently announced to both relaunch a Thundercats animated series and created a CGI film. I know far, far too much about this, so all you Juno lovers better not jump my shit about this. They are turning the animated series into some kind of Barbie and the Rockers/Hannah Montana shit stain and using the movie, like Transformers, to cram nostalgia down the throats of idiots my age. One is too young for your average teenager, one is too old, and the fact remains that neither is out yet.)

The bit about Juno wanting to watch Blair Witch Project because she “hadn’t seen it since it came out.” Do the math. She would have been seven or eight when that movie came out. Despite her pointlessly name-checking of Dario Argento, I can’t imagine Juno’s parents (portrayed as always having her best interests in mind) taking her—or allowing someone 17 or older to take her—to see Blair Witch. So what the fuck? If you wrote the screenplay in 2001 and have been hustling it for five years, the least you could do is update the reference to Saw or something so it makes some kind of sense.

The Bone Collector/Morgan Freeman thing. HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE MOVIE. I’ve read a few fans of the movie decry this nitpick by saying it’s a “subtle” way of pointing out Juno doesn’t know everything. Except that contradicts…pretty much everything else that’s established regarding Juno’s character. It’s just a sloppy error, almost like…

The story behind the name “Juno.” Which we never needed to know, for one thing. I hate it when movies think the names of their characters are so clever, unique, interesting, and/or symbolic that it requires a pseudo-poignant scene explaining where the name came from. Fuck you. The only person dumb enough to name a kid “Juno MacGuff” is a screenwriter. But that’s not the point. The point is:

JUNO IS A ROMAN GODDESS. NOT GREEK. You’d think a father so obsessed with Greek mythology would have picked up on that. Or a screenwriter with access to Google. It’s such an easy fucking fix: change his fixation to Roman mythology, or name her Hera MacGuff (or don’t stop everything to explain it in the first place). The end. A half-second of “find-and-replace” would have made this scene 100% less retarded. It disappoints me not only that Diablo Cody apparently did not know this, but that nobody in the cast or crew felt the need to take three seconds and look it up. Shit, I haven’t even thought about ancient myths since sixth grade, and I knew off the top of my head that Juno was Roman. I couldn’t have told you her backstory or the name of her Greek doppelgänger (until I took five seconds to look it up)—but I knew she wasn’t Greek.

There are other annoying references that a 2007 16-year-old would be unlikely to know or care about, but these were the three that bugged me the most.

And while this should maybe fall under the category of “story,” my most hated part of the movie has more to do with the lazy voiceover than with the story per se: “It started with a chair”/”It ended with a chair.” Has there ever been a lamer attempt to bookend a story? Christ, it almost makes “he was good in chair” sound urbane and witty. I’m sure I will delve more into “the chair” later, when I explore the story problems. But before I get there…

The Characters

I will say this: Juno MacGuff is the single most obnoxious lead character to appear in a film in a decade. The last truly embarrassing protagonist I can remember is Adam Sandler in The Waterboy (a movie I found funny, but Sandler’s horrible mushmouth accent almost sunk the whole thing). Her main flaw—get ready to embrace the irony—is that the screenplay would have us believe she’s flawless. Juno is portrayed as the smartest, cleverest, bestest person around. We get a lot of furtive glances and uncomfortable moments from other characters, but they amount to the movie telling us: Juno is so cool, so fresh, so original that these squares and old fogies just don’t understand her uniqueness. Never fear, though. They will be won over by her plucky charm, while she will remain an unchanged testament to perfection.

I’d like to compare her to Enid from Ghost World. That’s another character who is obnoxious and self-absorbed in similar ways, though not nearly to the extent of Juno. The difference is, throughout Ghost World, every single character gives her at least a small amount of shit for her obnoxiousness, and by the end of the movie she decides to grow the fuck up. No such luck with Juno; she is untouchable, and I wish the movie had portrayed her as simply delusional, while everyone around her is just waiting for the day that she snaps out of it and stops acting like a douchenozzle. Instead, they try to make us buy into Juno as an ideal person.

There are two moments that approach honesty—when Mark calls Juno out on “not being alive” during her chosen “best time for music” (after she stupidly argues, “You had to be there”), and when Paulie Bleeker confesses he tries really hard to be cool. I just wish moments like these were enough to make Juno pause for a bit of self-examination. But hey, who needs to take a step back and reevaluate perfection? There’s nothing she could do to become more perfect, right? …right.

Meanwhile, with the exception of Olivia Thirlby’s overcaffeinated performance as Leah, did every other actor in the movie ingest massive quantities of barbiturates in preparation for the movie? These characters don’t react to anything!

I know it’s supposed to be somewhat funny and ironic that Juno’s dad and stepmom are supportive of the pregnancy, but it just comes across as lazily copping out in the face of truly interesting conflict. Same deal with another pivotal moment: Mark and Vanessa’s divorce. It’s so laconic, it barely exists as a plot point. I’m not asking for screaming matches and hair-pulling (it’s supposed to be a comedy, after all), but this is one of the rare dramatic works that backs away from conflict and interesting character and story development—the fundamentals of dramatic structure—in favor of dropping a few more references to punk bands so obscure, they have greatest-hits CDs.

The Story

Full disclosure: when the lights first came up, I said to myself, “Well, I hated the first hour, but it really redeemed itself in the last 30 minutes.” In fact, in thinking so hard about (a) how I could hate two-thirds of a movie but decide the final third was enough to redeem the remainder and (b) why I disliked significant chunks of a movie that seems universally loved, I came around to officially hating it. Because what I liked about the third act does not hold up under close examination. At all.

I will deal with the third act specifically in a minute, but first, the main problem with the whole movie: it has no idea what its story is. Structurally, it couldn’t prop up an empty thimble without breaking apart. It pretends to know what it’s about: a teenager who is unexpectedly impregnated and decides to keep the baby. A winning premise given the most irresponsible and reckless treatment of any movie tackling a taboo subject. “Hey, teen girls living in a world where the pregnancy rate increases exponentially on a weekly basis: you can carry the baby to term and sell it off to a yuppie couple with no physical or emotional consequences. No muss, no fuss.” Good call, movie! I’m glad so many people are seeing you, because that’s really a message that needs to be delivered to the masses.

Whether a great idea in theory or a shallow movie in practice, it doesn’t matter. The narrative doesn’t stick with the premise. Maybe that’s why they tacked on “the chair” bookends. “Gee, they brought up a chair at the beginning and then again at the end, so I guess this is a complete story.” The chair becomes symbolic of everything that’s wrong with the movie: an impossible-to-believe protagonist coupled with lazy attempts to hold the story on a steady course it doesn’t want to go down. It also speaks to the complete non-effect the pregnancy has on her, physically and emotionally. She was only two months pregnant at the time, but seriously? Moving a bunch of furniture from a house to a front lawn? By herself? That can’t be healthy.

Now, the chair annoyed me, but I did initially buy into the story, meandering as it was. And there’s one reason for that: the last five minutes. These precious minutes contain two rare moments of emotional honesty. Nothing in Juno is more effective than Jennifer Garner’s performance as Vanessa, and those last few moments pack a nice emotional punch. I bought into that almost as fully as I bought into Bleeker quietly comforting Juno in the hospital. Then they sang a horrible song and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Bleeker comforting Juno, and their little song at the end, and the joviality expressed in the very last scene, as she happily rides her bike to her man, are actually reminders of why the story doesn’t work.

Again, it’s a problem with Cody pulling punches and losing the real truth and intrigue of the piece. As soon as we’re introduced to the Lorings, the entire movie becomes a different animal. The more Juno inserts herself into their lives (or, at least, Mark’s), the more interesting it becomes.

It all goes off the rails in the third act, though. First, Juno’s pseudo-pining for Bleeker, and their reconciliation, shows how one-sided and potentially disastrous their relationship is. We’re supposed to think Juno’s flawless, but when they got together and Juno declared her love for him, I immediately felt very, very sorry for him. Because she’s obnoxious and bossy and, for the most part, looks down on Bleeker. You could make arguments for different levels of emotional complexity in the characters, but to me I read her purest motivation as: her entire life has spiraled out of control, so she chose to regain that control by forging a relationship where she can boss a sweet, dopey kid around.

It’s around this point that the movie stops being about getting TEEN PREGNANT and the potential problems of getting a bit too close to the surrogate parents. It turns into a CW teen soap, and not a very good one. Consequently, we get no resolution to the real story. Yes, Vanessa gets her baby. Yes, she and Mark get divorced. Yes, one can infer Juno never sees either of them again. But where’s all the emotional fallout? The third act turning point—the divorce—should have given us so much insight into these three characters, who are the true centerpiece of the movie, but once again Cody wimps out and tries to convince us that, hey, these characters we’ve spent most of the movie with don’t matter much anymore.

The third act mostly sticks a big, pointy knife into the second act, so what was the point of Vanessa and Mark? Why make us care about them and their story and then not see it through to the end? (Vanessa, alone, receiving the baby does not qualify as a satisfying resolution to their story, emotionally honest or not.)

The Direction

Much of my criticism has been focused on the screenplay, because it’s fucking terrible.

Sadly, I can’t let Jason Reitman off the hook. After directing Thank You for Smoking, the most stylistically vibrant comedy since Election, what happened? Did he look at a bunch of Wes Anderson movies and get all the wrong ideas? I admire him for attempting something so different in style from his debut, but I don’t admire him for doing it poorly. I just don’t understand how the direction here could be so flat and lifeless, from the non-reactive supporting characters to the dramatically inert story. Because of my love of Thank You for Smoking and its pitch-black merry-prankster vibe, I wish I could believe Reitman directed this movie as a practical joke, that he hated the screenplay and wanted to satirize the entire “quirky” “independent” “comedy” movement.

Unfortunately, the movie is a little too sincere at the end for me to believe it. (Also, there’s the practical question of why a hot director would waste his time and potentially sabotage his career by making something intentionally terrible. But hey, a true merry prankster doesn’t think through shit like that. Trust me.)

The Soundtrack

I can partly blame Reitman-cum-Anderson for this. Also Ellen Page, who apparently had input on much of the soundtrack. Despite the fact that there’s textual evidence that Juno would hate the kind of music played throughout the movie, Page has insisted she made the selections believing it’s the kind of music Juno would listen to. Seriously, though, can we declare a moratorium on whiny, half-sung/half-spoken acoustic indie music in indie movies? I know these movies are usually done on the cheap, but I think you can afford to clear some music by people who know how to tune/play their instruments.

Am I asking too much?

The Bottom Line

What does Juno need to cross that line into regular, not-trying-too-hard coolness? Self-awareness. Juno the character is as flawed as her eponymous film. If the pregnancy experience caused her to learn something about herself or the people around her and grow as a human being, or if more of the characters made pointed references to her immaturity and obnoxiousness, and it caused Juno to take a few steps and realize hey, she’s 16 and pregnant. Even if she’s giving the baby away, maybe it’s time to grow up. (I don’t qualify her easy-way-out “love” for Bleeker as “growing up” or doing any kind of difficult soul-searching. It’s as random as one of Juno’s pop culture references.) Instead, everything goes right back to normal. Nothing about her experience changes Juno at all. Why did we watch this movie? The premise and the parts of the story that work indicate that, with several rewrites (and probably a different screenwriter altogether, maybe even a different director), Juno could have been a wonderful film. Instead, it’s a disappointing mess.

I’m going to go ahead and declare this the most overrated film of 2007. All the accolades, good reviews, and boffo box-office have baffled the shit out of me. I can’t see what everyone else sees, even though I wanted to like it. I’m just glad, after thinking about it too long and too hard, I can articulate my rage semi-coherently. Since nearly everybody I know loves the shit out of it, it’s nice to lay out all of the problems with it so I can ruin their day. To me, it’s 2007’s Pan’s Labyrinth or Garden State: I hate it deeply and specifically, and everybody hates me for not only my dislike, but my ability to explain in blunt (but detailed) terms why I feel that way.

At the very least, I think the cast should win some sort of special award for making that alien language of Diablo Cody’s sound like words actual humans would say.

If you read through this and said, “This fucking guy—he’s just jealous of Diablo Cody,” I say to you:

YOU’RE FUCKING RIGHT. I AM. Good God, I wish I could hatch a calculated scheme to take a stripper job solely to get a book deal out of it, then use my status as a 10th-tier “journalist” to hustle a screenplay written largely in the same style and largely about the same person (face it: Juno MacGuff is either Diablo Cody or the person Cody wishes she could have been at 16), adding some minor taboo subjects to make it “edgy” and “interesting,” and then have that screenplay propel me to an A-list writer nominated for a shit-ton of awards. Yes, I am jealous. She is the kind of hack I want to be.

*Note: I haven’t seen There Will Be Blood yet, so maybe he has. [Back]

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  • This review covers exactly what i thought when i watched this movie, and then some. Never before have i been so bored at the cinema, and ive been dragged to see scary movie 3. The dialogue instantly jumps out as forced, and Juno’s progressively quirky dress sense even more so. There are maybe one or two funny moments in the film, but i dont think that warrants its classification as a comedy.

    Nat 13 years ago Reply Link

  • Thank you. Though I don’t agree a hundred percent with what you said about the picture (I like whiny indie rock, and stylized dialogue ), I concur with most of what you said. I was seriously looking forward to this movie, and liked it when I saw it, but minutes after leaving the theatre it started to bug the fuck out me. Juno is obnoxious. She is completely unbelievable, and comes off as a fantasy of what a adult intellectual would have liked to be as a teen. I also hate this new indie movement of taking the odd/weird geek high school character (Napolean D., Juno etc)in order to make scripts seem unique. Juno is the worst of this new breed because not only is she completely unbelievable, she doesn’t really suffer through any of the weird girl in high school shit (ie: We are reminded before the movie really gets underway that Juno is pretty ,even the jock boy has a crush her, her best friend is a cheerleader, she has a active social life, but she ‘chooses’ to be ‘unique’ and still finds time to cultivate this offbeat persona, with interest beyond her years). She is confident, witty, and intelligent. Her parents are great, smart and understanding, even though she treats them like shit and like you said she gets off scot-free in the end. What, am I suppose to feel bad for her? Am I suppose to think that because she watches Argento horror classics she has some unique point of view on the teen pregnancy issue? She doesn’t demonstrate any maturity and real understanding/empathy with the world around her and this movie never even tries to call her on it.

    Cassandra 13 years ago Reply Link

  • thank you. Think you ticked pretty much every box. This film very nearly made me vomit.

    ben alexander 13 years ago Reply Link

  • Thanks for this review — I had a hard time finding criticisms of the film, even though I think they are deserving. I didn’t like this film AT ALL, it seemed very contrived and Juno’s character came off as a wannabe fake indie chick. Like Nat, I also didn’t find this film funny — it had moments, but got way too serious at the end. (I’m sure that the overall premise is to blame for this.) Anyways, good analysis!

    Sara 13 years ago Reply Link

  • THANK GOD. I felt pretty much the exact same way about the movie, and every time I expressed my opinion, someone would tell me how wrong I was because it was “so amazing”. Yeah. So amazingly awful. And just FYI, Cody’s upcoming project Jennifer’s Body has the same god-awful dialogue. So that’s something to look forward to.. Ha.

    Kitty 13 years ago Reply Link

    • Kitty,

      I appreciate you (and others) leaving this sort of comment. I’m going to assume you are female based on the name, so I hope that’s not wrong or I’ll feel really dumb and sexist, especially since I’m mainly writing to say I appreciate getting a feminine perspective on this. All my female friends loved the movie, so it’s just like you said: “Oh, it’s so amazing, how could you not like it?” It’s nice to hear the opinions of women who disliked the movie, because I dunno… I felt like it did a poor job of portraying women, so it’s amazing to me that so many women I know have shouted, “Yes!” and decided Juno is some kind of indie/alt/hipster ideal.

      On a less ranty note, it sounds like you’ve read Jennifer’s Body. Do you work in “the industry,” or did it get leaked online already? Just curious; I’d love to read Jennifer’s Body just to see if there’s any kind of depth to her writing, or if it’s just Juno with Murders.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment.

      D. B. Bates 13 years ago Reply Link

  • After finally finding a place to state how I felt about this movie, I immediately gained some relief from reading your posts.

    I too, found this movie disappointing and I believe I have REALLY good taste in films of all kinds. I thought it was going to be interesting – little did I know. I will admit that the actors are not the problem – it is the script and the main character, that was a turn-off. Right off the bat – the banter in the store in the beginning made me think “UH, oh”. As we continue to hear this young girl rattle off quips that I don’t believe someone her age – let alone anyone – might do, I became more disbelieving as to the credibility of this character.

    Then, after the scene when she and her girlfriend are piling furniture into a van, only to arrange onto the would-be father’s lawn prior to going to school.. in order to frame a statement? I just became more turned off – and the movie had barely begun. I wanted to like this film.. and kept hoping there would be some redeeming aspect to change my mind.

    As it continued, I realized I was becoming more irritated with the girl. I began thinking – if she is SUCH a “smart person”, with her “sharper than everyone” demeanor – how did she end up pregnant, especially since she seems to have no interest in her male counterpart – with whom, at the tail end, decides she is “in love with” – HUH?

    As was stated by you – it would have helped if we had seen any sign of her “being real” at any point (I think there are two “sensitive” scenes – which they continued to promote the film with), by having meaningful and relateable conversations with the other characters, who seem to be reduced to “props” in Juno’s world. I did like ALL the other actors who are great, believeable and who had actual conversations – with EACH OTHER.

    It just incenses me to hear week after week how “wonderful” they want people to believe this story and character is – and has now won awards for. I just don’t get it – and believe me, I GET great films where the writing, plots and characters really work and leave the viewer satisfied, moved, or affected in some way.

    L 13 years ago Reply Link

  • What a brilliant piece of writing. I hated Juno more than any film i have seen since the mind numbing “movie for the clubbing generation”, Human Traffic. It’s heartening to know that there are some other right minded people in the world.

    Paul 13 years ago Reply Link

  • Preach!

    Yurp 13 years ago Reply Link

  • the best negative review i’ve seen, period. good job.

    Goon 13 years ago Reply Link

  • I’m just curious, why did you hate Pan’s Labyrinth? I can totally understand hating on Garden State, but what has PL done to ruffle your feathazzz? 😉

    And yes, I agree that Juno SUCKS.

    Christie 13 years ago Reply Link

    • Christie,

      I noticed a lot of people searching for Pan’s Labyrinth and Garden State, so I added some thoughts about it to a new post. The link is below.

      It also has a few elaborations on my Juno dislike (one post wasn’t enough!), but if you aren’t interested in my rambling, I’ll just paste the Pan’s Labyrinth bit:

      Okay, so Sergi López plays creepy like nobody’s business. So the fuck what? The problem here is the fantasy element. I’m all for magical realism, but this is what Jay Sherman would call “fantacrap.” So you have a little girl. She has a shitty life. She escapes into a fantasy world that’s actually about 1000 times more disturbing than her actual life, but for some reason she has a strong desire to keep escaping to this world, without the movie giving us any firm understanding of why she would (other than the shittiness of her life). At the end, she’s killed and escapes permanently into the fantasy world. I was almost on board with the movie until this point, where all the subtle, disturbing imagery suddenly turned beat-you-over-the-head obvious as the little girl is hailed the queen of this goofy alternate world and can finally be happy in death. Duh! I might have actually been okay with the movie — though not nearly as positive as everyone else on the planet — if Guillermo del Toro hadn’t gone the Jane Campion route of explaining to us how deep his movie is like we’re third-graders. Either be deep or confusing as shit and let us sort it out (like David Lynch), or make a normal movie for the unwashed masses. You can’t have it both ways.

      I apologize in advance for disliking the movie. I know everybody on the planet loves it; I wanted to, but I didn’t connect to it at all. It happens.

      D. B. Bates 13 years ago Reply Link

  • You hit it on the head, dude. It wasn’t even THAT bad a movie, just so self-aware – it was like watching Buffy without the vampires.

    Two major disagreements though – you liked ‘Thank You For Smoking’?? Yeesh, I couldn’t get through that movie, it blew.

    And you DIDN’T like Pan’s Labyrinth? Mmmm.

    Oh well, big thumbs up for the rest (and I too hated Garden State).

    Mark 13 years ago Reply Link

  • God bless you.

    Seriously, I love you.

    No, seriously.

    Smoot 13 years ago Reply Link

  • I also hated how the movie tried to make some lame new overused, overquoted catchphrase like Napoleon Dynamite did. So much like ND, they had the characters spatter out “random” one liners.

    The Eye 13 years ago Reply Link

  • Although I liked Juno just because it was likable I also appreaciate your review. You made a lot of valid points. One I would like to add is the discrepency between the styles of music. Juno is scored with all that la de da “indie” Moldy Peaches stuff which is okay . Yet the character of Juno supposedly is into 70s hipster punk, notice the blurry Patti Smith record in her room. The only reason is that that signifies her to be cool which really means that the Director thought it was cool and if I as an audience recognizes the inherant hippness of The Ramones then I am in the cool club too. I was at a screening with Diablo cody and she said that in her original script Juno was to be a fan of 70s glam. None of this really tells me what or why the character needs to have such iconic musical tastes. I think a better choice would be something to contrast with the adoptive fathers grunge tast like 80s hair metal. But that would be useless too. I think I am rambling here.

    The last scene whe the Napolean Dynamite look alike boyfriend and Juno sit and sing together look to me that Reitman Jr. just saw “Once” and though it would be a good idea, not that it is consistant with anything. I see “Juno: The Musical” coming to Broadway soon.

    Paul2 12 years ago Reply Link

    • Paul,

      I did attempt (unsuccessfully, it seems) to point out the music discrepancy you mention. It got buried in my rambling.

      You make a very valid point about Juno’s musical tastes clashing more with the father–’70s punk is basically the predecessor (or at least a major influence) of most ’90s grunge acts. Even ’70s glam would have been a slightly better choice, though I like the hair-metal idea. It would have, at least, added some minor but meaningful conflict between the Juno and Jason Bateman’s character.

      D. B. Bates 12 years ago Reply Link

  • This is the best review by a juno hater I have heard. It is eloquent and angry and puts Diablo “too cool for school” Cody in her rightful place. The people who say Juno is a good movie obviously do not see many movies, let alone alternative movies. Juno is as much a mainstream piece as Star Wars and is simply put out to facilitate the general public on what cool is supposed to be.

    I have a dream: that Travis Bickle, John Ryder from The Hitcher and Ben from Man Bites Dog, will go to Juno’s house and show her what a “cool” charactar is supposed to do.

    Reid Delehanty 12 years ago Reply Link

  • I never really got what it meant when people said “Like a breath of fresh air” until just now. It’s like I was suffocating in anger and this eloquent, in depth review filled my lungs with “I too don’t understand what’s wrong with everybody else.” I also looked so forward to seeing Ellen Page and Michael Cera and Jason Bateman but afterwards, I just couldn’t understand why people just ate this movie up. It honestly felt like Tommyknockers and everyone else was infected with blindness.

    Ken 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Dude, this covers everything I hated about this movie, in more eloquent terms than “even for a bootleg I didn’t pay for, this is really, really bad”.

    Dee 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Dead on review. I hate this movie. Mostly, because I sat through it in a daze, thinking its kind of cute – kind of clever. Then the next day, I realized how punked I’d been. Some of the most seriously affected, contrived, forced dialogue I have EVER heard in a movie of critical acclaim.

    bill 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Thank god–i typed in “why i hate juno” into google, and was relieved to find this first, along with other hits. I found this movie to be utterly boring, and hard to follow–even shizophrenic! On the one hand a completely not plausible and un-self-critical premise about teen pregnancy that reflects absolutely nothing about what it’s really like (at least what any thinking person could imagine it to be like, even if they haven’t seen 14 year-old girls hide their pregnancy till the last moment,etc.). On the other hand the forced dialogue that tries to pass itself off as hyper-plausible, but to me seemed at every moment to be screaming, begging at the viewer “IM FUNNY, THIS IS BELIEVABLE, TEEN PREGNANCY CAN BE COOL AND CASUAL, THIS IS SO BELIEVABLE, WHY WON’T YOU LAUGH? AREN’T I SO COOL…………..”

    john Miller 12 years ago Reply Link

  • I vehemently agree with you on so many levels right now. It seemed like a two hour Gilmore girls episode. One lines are so hot right now. The music is so cutesy and contrived it makes my ears bleed acid. I’m so glad I Googled “I Hate the Juno Soundtrack” as well and found that there are people like me in this world. The only fun I had while watching it was imaging if J. K. Simmons took on his Schillinger persona from Oz randomly throughout the movie.

    Charles Nielsen 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Thank you for clearly articulating why i hate this movie so much. I laughed once. I watched it all the way through because i knew if i didn’t I would be accused of judging something i hadn’t seen. What torture!

    Bob 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Oh thank Goddess. (No pun intended.) I watched this movie last night on DVD and HATED it. You articulated almost everything I hated. Teen pregnancy fun! No physical discomfort! Supportive parents! You’ve found the love of your life, with whom you will stay forever, at age 16! Your body is remarkably the same after you gave birth! You, who emote over the beauty of Gibson v. Fender, carry your case-free acoustic guitar on your back, on a BICYCLE. Helmet-free, too! Because helmets are for loozers (and triathletes).

    The lazy-assed racism (Bone Collector reference — Morgan, Denzel, what’s the diff — no notable non-whites in the film, presumably American-educated Asian teen unable to say “born” instead of “borned”) and sexism (Vanessa is a castrating bitch who holds her do-nothing husband on a short leash; married men are stupid clods who fall in love with 16-year-olds over cliched musical tastes) nearly sent me over the edge. (as did that previous sentence — sorry for the convolution. i’m too busy sputtering.)

    Also, what parent with a five-year-old has as much time on her hands as Juno’s stepmother? And why ARE the parents so bland? “Jeez, the kid’s pregnant, let’s order pizza for dinner”

    And who takes a friggin’ pregnancy test in the local 7-11, and shares the results with the clerk? As for the Etch-A-Sketch — “one doodle that can’t be undid” comment: Uh, actually, it can, even if that’s not what Juno chose to do.

    Finally, a “spinal block” does not affect dilation of the cervix, which is supposedly why Juno’s doctor refuses to give her one. An epidural does slow down labor. A spinal block is used to administer narcotic or analgesic pain relief for a couple of hours. An epidural is used to numb you from the waist down so you don’t feel pain during childbirth (ha-ha, good luck with THAT! Might as well just go natural. B ut I digress.)

    Disclosure: I’m a 47-year-old mother of two and hopelessly unhip. Thanks for letting me vent.

    tinfoil hattie 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Amen… This film caused much disgust, I was truly convinced that everybody else in the theatre was picking up on some ‘LAUGH…THIS IS SO WITTY!’ subliminal messages that somehow didn’t affect me. I also find it interesting how many people are so attracted to the ‘alternative’ and ‘independent’ film image that Juno’s publicity blatantly tried to radiate, yet they don’t realise that it is yet another FOX production in disguise.

    Although, for Ellen Page’s sake, do not judge her full acting merit on this pitiful film..she is very good in Hard Candy.

    Benjamin 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Omg. Thank you. Finally someone agrees with me. I was just recently talking to my ex who is like this huge chick flick fan. And I happen to love Ellen Page’s movie Hard Candy. & I was so thrilled to see this movie. But when I saw it. I wanted to turn it off, but I kept it on, just so it could get better.

    A few things I need to say.

    The Music was terrible. I hated it. It was so dumb.”You’re a small time lover and a part time friend. The monkey on your back is your latest trend” What the fuck are you talking about, a monkey!

    I’m a teenager, 18 years old. And I despised this movie. I’ve had an unplanned pregnancy before. and I can’t believe her parents were THAT supportive. They didn’t even look like they care. They were like Okay, you can be pregnant and give your baby away. Thats perfectly fine.

    Juno’s way of talking, was all smart assed. And I wanted to like slap her. It was like stfu. You’re not funny. Your music sucks. And Juno was a teenager that didn’t curse. Excuse me!? Almost 99.9% of teenagers curse. Just as everyone said unrealistic.

    The split between the happy couple was so stupid. I mean. They didn’t even argue, they didn’t like scream. it was just unrealistic. If your husband tells you he’s gonna leave you, and your madly in love with him. You’re not gonna be all fucking happy happy joy joy.

    And her best friend likes teachers. I mean thats fucking gross. And Juno got mad at her not even boyfriend going to the prom with some girl. “Stink eye” Who in the fuck says that!

    If someone like Charlie goes, Where do you come from?

    I come from a wayyyyy worse place then juno.

    I mean wtf. She has a nice sized house. And she goes to a preppy filled school. While, I go to a public school full of ghetto’s and live in a neighborhood thats terrible.

    So people like Charlie, Don’t pull that card.

    And seeing her pee on the pregnancy test was just gross. And she kept making it seem like she wanted to fuck that guy.

    This movie sucked.

    I was dissapointed.

    A movie bout a stupid girl, who is unfit to be a mother. and she cant even look at her baby. And neither does the boi. She doesn’t even include him for god sakes.

    “You’re the cheese to my macaroni!” If you liked him. Why didnt you have him before.

    Alright. I’m done ranting.

    Juno was terrible.

    Kenya 12 years ago Reply Link

  • I know I’m very late to this party, but I wanted to chime in because I think this review is smart, well-written, and it’s a perfectly viable smackdown to a movie that has been and continues to be considerably over-hyped.

    I’d simply like to add the context that I see — and that I think you’ve missed.

    The number one influence on DC’s writing, in my opinion, is John Hughes. Go back to Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and the Breakfast Club. Listen to the way the characters talk. There are tons of kids talking the way kids never talk, but it’s awesome. Cody is clearly in the grip of some serious Hughes-love with her dialogue.

    This was the genius/luck of Diablo Cody. Her script happened to appear at the exact moment that Hollywood’s John Hughes Nostalgia reached sweet sweet fruition, like a 32-year old bottle of Pinot Noir. Most of the execs who run studios are now in their mid-30s, and were in the prime of their movie-watching childhoods when Hughes Was King. The problem, for most screenwriters who are in their mid 30s, is that we know we will never write as well as Hughes did, and we don’t have the heart to pull off weak imitations with the un-selfconscious verve that is necessary.

    DC had no such scruples. She unabashedly Hughes’d it up at the perfect time.

    The second bit of inspiration, which I must give DC credit for, is that she took an important lesson from these Hughes classics: tweenage audiences LIKE references that are above their heads. “Thudercats are go?” Abso-fucking-lutely! It’s kinda like when Ferris Bueller was talking about “Socialism, Communism, and other kinds of isms” — I didn’t really understand it at the time, but I knew Ferris was cool for understanding it. I’d also argue that Diablo Cody’s writing has a consistent energy and rhythm that can’t be taught — it’s confident writing that believes in itself, and in comedy that is truly half the battle.

    Let me be clear — John Hughes IS 1000% BETTER AS A WRITER that Diablo Cody. I’m sure she’d cop to the same (just as you cop to being jealous of her). Is it a travesty that Cody has an Oscar and John Hughes does not? Probably.

    But I ain’t gonna hate on the girl. No wayyyyyy. She went from a desk job in Minnesota to A-List $200K a week screenwriter in one fell script? That’s the American dream, homeskillet. And you can’t hate on the American dream.

    JMay 12 years ago Reply Link

  • Also chiming in late with this but: Thank God, you pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    I saw this movie at a film festival about a month before it went on general release so when I tell you that I have been waiting a long time to read a review like this you can believe me.

    I’d like to tag on my own major criticism and, sorry to have to go there guys, but it’s about the issue of abortion. It’s not even a strictly pro-choice argument that I am making here (although I find the way that Cody drapes herself in the mantle of 4th/5th/whatever wave feminism almost completely disingenuous) it’s one to do with the character. That character would not have chosen to go to term– it’s as simple as that. Even the people (idiots) who believe that Juno went on some kind of journey implicitly accept that she started off as an asshole. And it’s this asshole who makes the decision to stay pregnant– how??? This asshole who doesn’t give a crap about her baby daddy (and arguably never does), who disdains small town morality, who sneers derisively at 66% of the people advertising for newborns in the Penny Saver (“like, they are totally too normal!”) then selects people she is obviously going to dislike, meets these new people and proceeds to alternatively quip and sneer at them? Babies are “like seamonkeys” or “things distributed in iPod cannons”– you are telling me she was really in awe of the fact that human life was inside her? Please. She smokes a pipe and comedy ‘hangs’ herself with licorice but an abortion clinic with scented condoms– oh man, that’s just too weird, right?!?!? I’ve heard that Cody (idiot) has claimed since that Juno had an understandable fear of like, blood and medical environments or whatever. That would have made sense if the alternative to having an abortion wouldn’t have been effectively medicalising her body for next 9 months. Nothing bloody about childbirth, oh no. Also, she planned the sex so we are told. Planned the sex but, no condoms, no pill and no morning-after-pill? Come on.

    That ‘journey’ claim is BS in any case. The reality is that she starts off as an asshole and ends up one too. That’s the difference between her and Enid and her and the guy in Rushmore– as you have said, there is no comeuppance, no growth– no arc.

    Apparently a deleted scene makes it clear that Juno is not a virgin to which I can say, kudos to the editor for that canny excision. Imagine if it had been left in the movie? It completely undermines the idea that she was ‘always in love with Bleeker’ (sex being a necessary function of love in the buttoned-up world) and it makes her apparent forgetfulness about birth control all the more chilling. Or a particularly egregious example of plot contrivance. Either way… I wonder reactionary masses could still have clasped this movie to their collective bosom the way they appear to have done, knowing that Bleeker’s was only the second face that Juno had sat on?

    Speaking of sexual freedom, I might as well make my divergent opinion known on the ‘creepy’ Mark-Juno romance. I thought that’s where the movie was going and I think it’s where it should have gone (shades of ‘Ghost World’). The whole point about his character, I thought, was that he was about as mature as she was (and about 1000 times more charismatic, attractive and appealing than Bleeker. No surprise to find that he is modeled on the man that Cody actually married). If he hadn’t made his move on her (and lest we forget she put on lipstick and a skirt– I really don’t buy the wide-eyed shock and disappointment. It’s not like Juno was a total naif– what did she think that her Lolita-esque bestie was into doing with the old guys?) the movie would have had no drama whatsoever.

    I think this complete rejection of any subversive content (and even ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ had heroin abuse and ‘Garden State’ attempted suicide) is what makes this movie such a missed opportunity. This is where the opportunity was missed, IMO, because, in my eyes, a teen pregnancy is not what this movie is about and it’s not really what it could have been about so long as Cody was so committed to making that character the protagonist. As I have said, a believe that a coherent Juno-type would have had an abortion. The movie is, so far as I can tell, about an annoying teenager who gets pregnant, starts to pester a yuppie couple, has minor (and I do mean minor) crisis and then hooks up with her goofy male friend. The scene at the end with her father simply compounds this view, the film is simply not interested in a examining the reality or consequences of pregnancy with any depth whatsoever (we are supposed to see this as the subversive act but it simply comes off as glib) When Juno talks to her Dad the discussion about the baby is over in a nano-second, all the emphasis is on finding your true love. I mean, it’s ridiculous, but that is what the movie is about. The meandering sections are only about teen pregnancy through default, not because the movie is really dealing with the issue. They may just as well have been Juno sitting on an abandoned bus staring into the mid distance for all the difference it would have made.

    The observation about how it should just have been set in 1995 when both Cody (and myself) were 15 is completely right. Yes. Of course it should have been! It is, in spirit anyway (no cell phones, no internets — ‘blog’ jokefail notwithstanding). Again, they would have lost out on a lot of their 14-17 something fans (“My friends tell me that I’m just like Juno, actually!”) but what price integrity, eh? And yes, with regards to the anachronistic references it isn’t so much that someone born in 1995 wouldn’t know these things it’s just… why would they pile up them up so obnoxiously? And at the expense, if you’ve noticed, of a single contemporary reference? Why make reference to ‘Diana Ross’ as a diva when you can make reference to ‘Mariah Carey’– the joke (such-as) works exactly the same except this time it reaches a bigger audience. There simply is no benefit to being willfully obscure all the goddamn time.

    garbage and rocks 11 years ago Reply Link

    • Wow, buddy… Better late than never!

      You caught a lot of things I either missed or ignored, plus you enriched a lot of what I did write about with your own observations (very interesting point about getting outdated pop-culture references at the expense of anything modern).

      I didn’t go too much into the abortion possibility or the various alternatives to her “sex with Bleeker” scenario, because like you, I did not think this was a movie about teen pregnancy. If it was, it would have handled the subject a little less retardedly. Nonetheless, I pretty much agree with you — as written, Juno’s choices make no sense. Somebody so pragmatic about sexual liaisons (as I recall — and I apologize if I fail, but it’s been over a year — it was not an impulsive decision) would realize the possible consequences and take precautions.

      I can live with the fact that she didn’t. I could live with it much more easily if they had come up with any sort of explanation why she didn’t take precautions (and it’s not that difficult — the pill takes too long to take effect, Bleeker is too inept to get a condom on, teens have limited awareness of the morning-after pill and how it works, especially in the era of “abstinence-only” sex education). Nonetheless, the fact that all of this remains not just unexplained but unacknowledged is a flaw, but it doesn’t sink the ship.

      So just ignore the fact that this character probably would not have gotten pregnant in the first place. I can’t reconcile any of Juno’s other behavior in the movie with the fact that she chooses not to have the abortion. I’m okay with her making the choice — but make it a reasonable choice. Flavored condoms, minor waiting-room discomfort, and a supposed fear of blood/medical shit (which is another thing I’m glad they didn’t put in the movie because it makes no fucking sense, as you pointed out) are not good enough. It’s just a combination of plot contrivance and making the “edgy, hip” choice instead of the expected one… But it didn’t have to be either, if Cody had written a character who had a believable emotional crisis or phobia that kept her from terminating the pregnancy. It’s evident throughout that Cody has no fucking clue what it’s like to go through a pregnancy. (I’m a male who’s never knocked anybody up, and I have a better sense of the experience.) If she did, everything Juno did in the movie would be a lot more believable. But alas, rather than owning up to the shoddy writing, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman have decided — in the face of criticism — to call it “a fantasy.” Bull fucking shit.

      (Incidentally, if you’re interested in more hilariously inept attempts at warmed-over feminist empowerment, check out my review of Jennifer’s Body, Diablo Cody’s next feature. It’s actually better than Juno — as a script — but it’s still hilariously flawed. I can’t figure out if Cody’s politics are sincerely this confused, or if she’s just pandering and doesn’t believe any of it.)

      D. B. Bates 11 years ago Reply Link

  • to each her own, but i’m amazed at the level of disdain for this film and its writer.

    No film is perfect and I challenge ANY one to prove otherwise.

    Until then, I’m sure Cody is quite content with her Oscar, her close-knit relationship with Spielberg, and her growing legion of other successful screenwriters.

    Musesick72 11 years ago Reply Link

  • This movie is horrible. Juno is smug and pretentious. The other characters act like zombies, and Juno is their queen. Her baby daddy is a loser, and an unatractive one at that. Why would she let herself get pregnant by him if she’s so preety and cool?

    The yuppy couple is contrived and stupid. The husband is attracted to a 16 year old, which is not that implausible, but Juno is pregnant. Don’t most inmature guys run away scared from prenangt women, even when the child-to-be is their own? And this guy is way inmature, he’s not ready to father a baby, even if his wife is in the market for purchasing one or not.

    Now, Juno’s parents are unreal and ridiculous. They act as if neither of them own a pulse, and the cheerleading friend is as confused as Juno is.

    The music in the movie is lame, and nearly put me to sleep. The last song was supposed to be so cool, but instead it only showcased their lack of talent.

    But the biggest problem I found with the movie was Its blase attitudre towards teen pregnancy. It seems to sing: “It’s OK to get pregnant with a ramdong guy I don’t care about. It’s fine to then give my baby away without looking at it, and then keep living the self-absorbed life I’d been living before I hit this tiny bump in my road. I will forget, I don’t care. My parents don’t care. My baby daddy doesn’t care. Should I repeat I don’t care?”


    Ceci 11 years ago Reply Link

  • Best review ever! I hate this film so much…so so much!

    Karen 11 years ago Reply Link

  • I hate, hate, HATE this movie. I’m so glad others see it, too.

    I became “unexpectedly” pregnant as a college sophmore back in 99′. So, naturally, everyone somehow thought I just “had to see” this movie…and Knocked Up.

    Why? So I can hate the Hollywood treatment of feminine issues like pregnancy and infertility just a little bit more?

    Juno is a trashy, callous, and thoroughly unlikeable. I hate the character. I hate the movie. And if *anyone* who knows what my situation was 10 years ago mentions similar movies to me in the future, they can expect my fist to make contact with the nose they just stuck in my business.

    I hate Hollywood and Juno. The movie epitomizes everything that is WRONG with our culture and the way we view women and women’s health.

    Charlene 11 years ago Reply Link

  • I am afraid what would happen to myself and the people around me if I watched this movie. Even watching the trailer triggers such blind, HULK-like rage in me that I do not want to go to that place.

    Tim 11 years ago Reply Link

  • I know this is a really old post, but a friend of mine just saw Juno and linked to this. I must say you summed up the reasons to hate Juno, and very eloquently.

    I walked out of the cinema loving the movie, mainly because it left me feeling happy. It was easy to laugh along with the audience and the film felt refreshingly different. However, I found I had a hard time explaining to my girlfriend why I liked it. Some jokes and things told to her sounded a bit lame.

    The more I think about the movie, the more I dislike it. It’s so fake in so many ways and I think you really summed up why. And I, too, envy Diablo Cody. She really lucked out. (I think the success of Gilmore Girls, while less annoying than Juno, contributes to this.) (I do also find GG annoying at times and not as great as it’s praised to be.)

    I’m also female, by the way.

    Deniselle 11 years ago Reply Link

  • The first time I watched this was with my amateur comedian/actor boyfriend. He really knows his shit when it comes to real art, and he lets everyone know it (which is probably why I’m commenting on this site to begin with.) When the “sketchy” opening credit scene began, and when he saw the guy-from-the-Office-turned-gas-station-clerk refer to a positive pregnancy test as an “Etch-A-Sketch,” and her fertility as a toaster oven or waffle maker (“Your Eggo is preggo”), he immediately said that he’s seen some shit in his life, but this was the worst yet. At the time, I disagreed with him, (I’ve changed a lot over the years, believe me), but that’s mostly because I had a crush on Michael Cera, (I’d watch inane bullshit for Cera any day.) Especially with the new Twilight craze, (just like I watched Juno on opening day, I READ the very first Twilight the month it came out, which was, like, TOTALLY forever ago), I think that more and more doped up “quirky” writers who want to get to their inner child or some such nonsense use their pure Mary-Sue-esque characters (literary term that describes both “Isabella Swan” and “Juno McGuff” perfectly), in order to hypnotize girls with how perfect and beautiful and unphased by adolescence they are, and, in Meyer’s case, using a “chagrin” piece of work like Eddy Cullen to grab prepubescent girls and their middle-aged moms by their panties and lure them into the movie theatre. It’s just extremely pathetic that these shallow husks of human beings can actually generate this much publicity. It makes me so disappointed with my generation.

    Lydia 11 years ago Reply Link

  • The movie was so interesting.I have learned lot of things through it.

    How to get pregnant 11 years ago Reply Link

    • The comment above is spam, but I’m leaving it because it’s hilarious.

      D. B. Bates 11 years ago Reply Link

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