Thursday, January 03, 2008
'Juno'-- A 21rst Century 60s Film
This afternoon, for an hour and thirty six minutes, I was beguiled by a little 'indie' film starring Ellen Page, with co-stars such as Allison Janney and Jennifer Garner and especially J.K. Simmons who is fantastic as Juno's Dad. The basic premise of the movie is simple-- sixteen year old girl gets knocked up by boyfriend. She then must decide what to do, and decides to have the baby, but give it up for adoption. The couple she decides to bequeath the child to, proves to be in the process of uncoupling, but Jennifer Gardner gets the baby prize anyway. Meanwhile her on again off again relationship with the child's real father blossoms into something like love.
The movie has a light and sweet tone, and it depicts teenage life in high school today (somewhere near St. Cloud Minn.) as not much different than I remember it from the 60s, except with worse music. Kids sit around listening to music, and play guitars together. I wish I still had time to do more of that. But when your musical idols are the Sex Pistols and Sonic Youth as opposed to say the Beatles, the Who, or Crosby, Stills and Nash you are musically deprived to say the least.
The same grungy apparel is still in vogue, the same dorky behavior is still critiqued, and while the 'in' or 'cool' lingo has changed ('bro' has been replaced by the omnipresent 'dude') a bit, there is still the same hormonal problems caused for teenagers 'in lust' where if you place the hormones in one hand and good intentions in the other-- it is wise to put one's money on the hormones, especially with the latest brain studies which show that the faculty of moral discernment is 'like for sure' the last part of the frontal lobe to develop in a teen's brain.
The issue this movie raises is not whether teen sex and teen pregnancy is a good or bad thing. The obvious difficulties of being pregnant as a teen age girl are not sugar coated here. The issue is-- what does one do, once such an unintended outcome happens? How should the girl, and her parents, and the boy friend, and their friends react? Juno, whilst initially planning on an abortion, thankfully can't go through with it when she sees one of her high school buddies protesting abortions outside the clinic. But having made that choice, there are still more difficult ones to make, and to her credit, Juno takes initiative and even finds what seems to be the perfect couple to give this child up to by way of adoption. The matter becomes more complicated when the father to be, gets cold feet about the whole deal.
Personally, I found the behavior of the parents, nicely played by Janney as the step mom and Simmons as the dad, not only believable but helpful. The girl's behavior is not condoned, but a loving way of dealing with both Juno and her child is carved out. There are poignant moments in the film where Juno gets upset when the adoptive parents are about to break up, as she wants better for her child to be or where Juno has a heart to heart with her Dad and asks him the eternal question-- 'is true love that lasts forever, really possible? I need to know it is possible.' So does everyone, and thankfully the answer is yes-- it is, by the grace of God possible. This film is likely to win various awards, especially in the case of Ellen Page's revelatory and quite convincing performance. But whether it wins awards or not, it will certainly win some hearts, without condoning promiscuous behavior. I would hope that if what happened to Juno happened to one of my children or grandchildren, I would have enough wisdom and guts to respond as well as Juno's parents are depicted as doing. This is not in the end a film about the need for more tolerance of immoral behavior. It is a film about what love should do, after such behavior occurs.