Dec 28

“Juno”: Teen in Trouble Gets Love and Support from Her Family

The comedy/drama Juno (2007), starring Ellen Page, with J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney as her dad and stepmom, presents a pretty functional family, something we don’t often see in films.

There’s also an issue of an unplanned pregnancy in adolescence. As is so often the case, the review by Roger Ebert is spot on: “Juno informs her parents in a scene that decisively establishes how original this film is going to be. It does that by giving us almost the only lovable parents in the history of teen comedies: Bren (Allison Janney) and Mac (J.K. Simmons). They’re older and wiser than most teen parents are ever allowed to be, and warmer and with better instincts and quicker senses of humor…”

Here’s the scene in which the teenager announces her news:

In the next clip, stepmom Bren and Juno’s friend Leah accompany her to her ultrasound:

Juno has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A sampling of reviews:

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times: “Horrors — was this yet another soulless indie movie in which all the characters are deadpan and ironic and way too clever, accompanied by the kind of songs you might hear at an open-mic coffeehouse? But director Jason Reitman made a pretty great movie last time (‘Thank You for Smoking’), so I stayed in my seat. By its end, ‘Juno,’ in its guilelessly chatty way, touches the heart — and yes, I had tears in my eyes. This movie works, on its own terms.”

Desson Thomson, Washington Post: “It transcends its own genre. Only superficially a teen comedy, the movie redounds with postmodern — but emotionally genuine — gravitas.”

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: “What kind of movie is Juno? The rarity that plucks your heartstrings while tickling them.”

Dec 21

“Young Adult”: Emotionally Stunted Alcoholic Narcissist

Over the weekend I saw the new movie Young Adult, a comedy/drama starring Charlize Theron, and featuring the same combo of writer and director, Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, behind the success of Juno (2007).

Since seeing it, I read an article by Dan Persons, film journalist, and liked what he had to say regarding the release of this film during the holiday season:

Bless screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman their twisted, little hearts. In a season rife with people bettering themselves through moody introspection, they introduce us to Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), author of young adult novels and a woman who looks within and comes away with all the wrong lessons.

Young Adult isn’t season-specific, but it does serve as a healthy counterbalance to all that holiday growth and belonging…

Theron’s character Mavis, as described by critic Christy Lemire (Boston.com), is “an anti-heroine who makes no apologies for her deplorable behavior.” In addition, she’s depressed and knocks back hard liquor like there’s no tomorrow—and it clearly isn’t doing her any favors. And, with an unhealthy megadose of narcissism, her main quest in life, at the age of 37, is to bulldoze her way back into the arms of her old high school boyfriend—who’s now happily married with a newborn.

In the end, although very impressed with Theron’s acting, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the overall story. Yes, it had held my interest. But…

A few hours later, though, it caught up to me, and I found myself thinking more about the meaning and impact of Young Adult. As Robert Levin, The Atlantic, concludes: “It trades in discomfort and unease, not catharsis. That’s an achievement worthy of admiration, if you can endure it.”

And Roger Eberts sentiments also come close to my own feelings: “As I absorbed it, I realized what a fearless character study it is. That sometimes it’s funny doesn’t hurt.”

I would add, though, that the character is so damaged that some of those so-called funny moments—the ones that produced laughter from the people around us while my partner and I looked at each other questioningly—also do hurt.