January 24, 2009

I finally got around to watching "Juno" on the DVR.

Loved it. Perfectly entertaining. I just looked up the old trailer, which pretty much shows the entire story (which you'll realize if you've seen the movie)...



... though it tricks you into thinking they'll be waaaaay more Dwight from "The Office."

Tweeting about the movie last night, I was asked "to weigh in on whether it was a pro-life message movie" and said, in 140 characters or less:
I think it was a pro-life movie. Juno instinctively and automatically bypasses abortion. That's unusual and means a lot.
I'm sure much more could be said. You talk first.

67 comments:

Meade said...

Since 1973, you've come a long way, baby.

vbspurs said...

I loved Juno. I loved the Daria-esque character played by the Canadian missy, Ellen Page.

Her cynicism was a perfect foil for the topic, which could easily have been pap or maudlin. This lack of sentimentality even raises the level of the other actors' dialogue:

“You should've gone to China, you know, 'cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. They pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.”

She has the kind of presence teenagers often have about life, when they feel themselves to be more mature, more intelligent, and certainly more observant than others.

That's her attraction to Pauley, because he is transparently genuine (whereas she suspects her personality is a bit of a con job).

In turn, her attraction to the couple she wants to "donate" her kid to -- there is really no other way to put it -- stems from the fact that her life seems messy, with an ummotivated working-class dad, a rather judgemental stepmom, and a beatnik mother who she never sees, and like people who have that kind of life, often do, she imagines that suburbs with those perfectly decorated houses must have people who have it all together. That's where she wants her baby to grow up, to have something she didn't.

Well, it's just a very layered, and unusual film. I could speak about it all day.

Cheers,
Victoria

Revenant said...

If a character has to actually HAVE an abortion for a movie to qualify as pro-choice, there pretty much aren't any pro-choice movies aside from a handful of made-for-TV Lifetime specials and the show "Six Feet Under". Filmmakers know that a large majority of Americans oppose aborting unwanted but otherwise healthy fetuses. They do not want to alienate the majority of their customer base by having a character support that option. So you always get the standard cliche: the character acknowledges that she COULD abort, but opts not to.

ricpic said...

Insufferable eponymous creature. Who her father puts up with because, well, he's her father. That's all that registered with me.

Ann Althouse said...

"Daria-esque"

Ha ha. I'd forgotten about Daria. Same flat delivery.

"an ummotivated working-class dad, a rather judgemental stepmom, and a beatnik mother who she never sees"

I thought the dad was the stepdad and the mom was the real mother....

chuck b. said...

I can't get past the intrusive and obnoxious indie rock soundtrack. Maybe I could watch the movie silent, with subtitles.

When was the last time anyone in a movie had an abortion anyway?

chuck b. said...

Even Sex and the City had the baby.

Ann Althouse said...

Having the baby is a better narrative, quite aside from any position on the moral/legal question.

***

There's also "Citizen Ruth."

chuck b. said...

"Having the baby is a better narrative"

That cries out for refutation, but I agree and can't provide one.

dbp said...

Juno kind of had to keep the baby in order to move the plot along.

I liked how she, in part, made up her mind to abort the abortion because of what her HS friend and abortion protester told her: But it wasn't anything moral or religious--it was that the baby already had fingers.

chuck b. said...

(Speaking of VOD and pregnancy, I recently downloaded four In The Womb programs--cats, dogs, elephants, twins. Enjoyed them all, but liked cats and twins best.)

Noel said...

Great ending.

fivewheels said...

I didn't see the character automatically and instinctively bypassing abortion: She did go to the clinic, after all.

I wouldn't say it was a pro-life message movie, in the sense that the message is its reason for being. It does contain pro-life messages, though.

But the pro-life voice, the protesting girl, was portrayed as kind of a weirdo. "Knocked Up" was probably more pro-life, in that the one character arguing for abortion was portrayed as insensitive and awful.

HelenParr said...

I thought the dad was the stepdad and the mom was the real mother....

You might recall that the real mom was the absent parent who kept sending cacti to Juno.

I love Jason Bateman. I have ever since he was on "Little House" with Shannon Doherty.

Now...next up in the Althouse-catch-up-cinema: The Incredibles.

Robert said...

Hi,

I am an adoptee. This movie is to adoption what "Hogan's Heroes" is to World War II. It's funny as long as you never think about the moral world of the characters. The movie never hints that Juno and the natural father will think about that baby every night before they go to sleep for the rest of their lives.

The child too has now lost both his natural father and the prospective adoptive father. This is a horror.

In our world of such material wealth, should we encourage our 16 year olds to sacrifice the most sacred bond of their life so they can attend the junior prom?

The heartlessness will catch up to them.

Adoption can save lives, particularly adopting doomed girl babies from misogynistic nations. But, adoption as shown in this movie will weigh heavy on the souls of all involved.

--Robert

Thomas said...

Definitely a prolife movie. The protest worked. Fingernails--the reality of commonality--sends Juno out of the clinic. A clinic which isn't portrayed in a very flattering light.

I loved Juno's parents. As I left the theater I thought I'd like to see another movie about them. A couple of great actors in very well written roles.

Meade said...

Stanley Ann Dunham was three months pregnant when she married the father of the first African American U.S. president. She may have considered aborting that fetus, her first child. But if she did, she apparently had the audacity of hope to change her mind.

vbspurs said...

You might recall that the real mom was the absent parent who kept sending cacti to Juno.

Right, that was going to be my Annswer.

(Heh)

I read Robert's account and I had to knock back a guilty gulp. But that's the beauty of the remove of movies when they don't affect you -- it allows you to watch the characters through the tunnel vision of the lens, and to enjoy what they are presenting (or not).

In a perfect world, the real-life Juno would see her own baby's fingernails and decide with Pauley to keep him. Are you going to tell me she was touched enough not to abort him when her chum spoke to her about theoretical nails, but when she actually saw them in front of her, she didn't feel anything?

But that didn't happen, because human beings go back to being selfish after their selflessness quotient has been reached.

Cheers,
Victoria

birdie bob said...

Meade,
A factor is that Obama's mother was pregnant 10 years before Roe v. Wade. Who knows what different pressures might have been applied to her if that same scenario had occurred in 1974 instead of 1963.

vbspurs said...

By the 1970s, it would've been much more accepted to have the baby, because if there is one thing that trumps "pro-choice" for those who lean Left, it's making a statement about race.

Not just race either, but any perceived underdog status.

My mordauntly feminist friend from Oxford married a poet in Dublin, and to everyone's utter utter shock, she took his last name.

Why? It was a statement against the English language, and the supremacy of British culture since his family only spoke Gaelic at home, and were all named Aoibheann and Ó Damháin.

Cheers,
Victoria

TerriW said...

When was the last time anyone in a movie had an abortion anyway?

High Fidelity.

(Well, maybe not the last time... but it wasn't a movie that existed to make a statement about abortion, so that has to count for something in regards to the question.)

Meade said...

Godfather

fivewheels said...

Both off-screen, though, right? When is it actually portrayed? Fast Times? I haven't seen any of these movies lately, I don't quite remember.

fivewheels said...

Well, I remember Godfather II. Not the other two.

Maggie45 said...

"Stanley Ann Dunham was three months pregnant when she married the father of the first African American U.S. president. She may have considered aborting that fetus, her first child. But if she did, she apparently had the audacity of hope to change her mind."

See:

http://www.catholicvote.com/

Freeman Hunt said...

Definitely pro-life.

She goes to the clinic, the protester from her school successfully changes her mind, and the clinic is portrayed as a rather skanky but clinical place devoid of human feeling. I'd say that's pretty pro-life for a mainstream movie.

Freeman Hunt said...

Moviemakers would be loathe to show an abortion in a movie. Most people have no idea how abortions are performed. There's a baby on the ultrasound screen and then a tube comes in there, rips it into pieces, and extracts it. Showing that on the screen would be like putting out a pro-life advertisement. The mostly liberal critics would rake your movie over the coals.

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh, and then to make sure that all of the pieces are out, the baby is reconstructed in the pan the pieces are in. No freaking way is someone who doesn't want his movie panned going to show that.

blake said...

I love Jennifer Garner in that movie, and the subtle little judo movie it does to reverse your sympathies for Bateman's character over to Garner.

If a character has to actually HAVE an abortion for a movie to qualify as pro-choice, there pretty much aren't any pro-choice movies aside from a handful of made-for-TV Lifetime specials and the show "Six Feet Under".

Eh. It was almost mandatory in the '80s for teen-sex comedies to include an abortion.

When was the last time anyone in a movie had an abortion anyway?

Four months, three weeks, two days.

blake said...

No freaking way is someone who doesn't want his movie panned going to show that.

Probably true of an American or Western European movie. But I would note that 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days won a mess of awards. Wiki:

The movie received an enthusiastic response from critics, earning a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (based on 108 reviews)[6], while also earning a 97% rating on Metacritic (based on 37 reviews)[7] and earning a 91% rating on Movie Mothertrucker (based on 20 reviews).[8] Jay Weissberg from Variety magazine opined that the film was "pitch perfect and brilliantly acted... a stunning achievement". He remarked that the film shares a number of characteristics with other productions of the New Romanian Cinema, namely: "long takes, controlled camera and an astonishing ear for natural dialogue."[9]

Freeman Hunt said...

I will have to check that movie out. I haven't seen it. And you are right, I should have been more specific: No way is an American filmmaker going to show that stuff.

blake said...

Freem--

It's -- as you can see in my review, I don't exactly recommend it. There's no sugar coating.

Jen Bradford said...

I wish I could remember the movie, I'm thinking it was Woody Allen, where a character finds out she's pregnant and gets very pissed off about the inconvenience of scheduling an abortion. Like it was traffic court.

It's one of those things that rattle my pro-choice status. Presumably if I have decided it's not immoral, it shouldn't matter to me whether a woman expresses remorse, or has several abortions - but of course it does.

As for Juno, I loved her, but have a hard time watching any drama where I'm so aware of the scriptwriting. I feel the same way whenever I try to watch The West Wing, or Grey's Anatomy. Those really long over-clever sentences, and virtually every sentence, drive me bananas.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh yeah, the cacti! That brings it back. I watched the movie in 3 parts, which is not good.

@Blake I agree about Garner ... And this is another traditional values part of the movie. You are really not supposed to get divorced. You have to fulfill your commitment.

vbspurs said...

Four months, three weeks, two days.

My favourite films of 2007 were:

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 days
Persepolis
Aleksandra
This is England
Juno

The Romanian film is must-see. And believe it or not, it's not as pro-abortion as you may think.

Cheers,
Victoria

SteveR said...

Yes its a very good movie, clever and well acted. Jennifer Garner was especially good and the parents, rather than being dopes like many teen centric movies portray, were also good charcters.

As far as the abortion/pro life/unwed mother angles, I didn't feel like basing my feelings about the movie on what the movie was "supposed" to be saying.

So I kept it simple and enjoyed it, over analysis is not always a requirement.

blake said...

SteveR is right as far as over-analyzing goes. This was not a "statement" movie.

Victoria--

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 days
Persepolis
Aleksandra
This is England
Juno


Interesting list. I haven't seen Aleksandra or This is england. I liked Persepolis but felt the main character was really self-absorbed.

I'd probably put in Ratatouille and the two documentaries Young At Heart and King of Kong in my 2007 faves.

The Romanian film is must-see. And believe it or not, it's not as pro-abortion as you may think.

Mark said...

I liked the movie but I knew as soon as we find out the main character is pregnant that there was no way it was going to end with the child having a traditional mother and father, married to one another, both his/her biological parents. Because, see, we need to be constantly lectured that there's not just ONE way to raise children. So even when it looked like the married couple was going to adopt the child, I said to the person watching it with me "no way does this end up with the child having a mother and father. She's going to turn out to be a lesbian, or something..." And sure enough, she divorces her immature husband and adopts the child herself.

Cuz see we couldn't just have Juno marry the father of her child and raise their baby together. No, why, Juno even says the child didn't really belong to her. No, the child has to be raised by a single mother. See how great that is? Cuz, see, the single mother loves him. So who needs a father? Everyone, soak up the message, now: it's so bourgeois for a child to be raised by his married mother and father. So unhip! Much cooler to be raised by a single mother or a pair of homosexuals. Heck it's practically WRONG to raise a child in a traditional married home - it might make the single mothers and homosexuals feel bad! Well ok maybe not wrong exactly, but we'll be damned if we'll write a movie where such a square thing is implied to be the happy ending! We gotta teach our teens not to be haterz, you know!

blake said...

Mark--

Juno keeping the baby would've made for a much worse ending, I think. Very cliché.

Mark said...

Meade wrote: Stanley Ann Dunham was three months pregnant when she married the father of the first African American U.S. president.

Yes and Stanley Ann Dunham was a 17 year old girl whose parents apparently condoned her canoodling with an already-married African communist practically old enough to be her father. Great parenting, huh? He knocked her up and after a short while abandoned her and the child to go back to Africa. He'd had his fun, visiting America and banging some teenage pussy.

I shudder to think that starry-eyed teenage girls across America may decide that the "hot" thing to do is to get knocked up by some foreigner so they can be a baby-mama to a potential future President too. Great example.

Mark said...

blake wrote: Juno keeping the baby would've made for a much worse ending, I think. Very cliché.

Cripe you just made my point for me. It's considered a cliche for a child to end up being raised by the happy, married mother and father of the child.

It's considered a WORSE ENDING for that to happen!

Every movie has messages to it. Every movie teaches something. And it matters to a society what the consistent messages being taught to the young are.

What needs to have been done for this to be a good movie is for the characters to mature enough to realize that they had an obligation to grow up and make it work. Whether that meant that they would live with parents to help care for the baby until they had some education and were able to support it on their own, or whatever. Instead the message is "if you're just not feeling like YOU are quite up to it yet, if you just don't feel like you're ready to grow up yet - if you'd rather hang out with your bf some more and just play the guitar and groove along, hey, it's fine - just give the baby to some single woman who wants a baby. The baby's future feeling of rootlessness doesn't matter compared to your own desire not to have to grow up yet."

All through human history people old enough to make babies have been raising them. Only in the modern age do we expect to live as self-indulgent children into our late twenties or thirties and "find ourselves" before being expected to take responsibility for what we do.

Jen Bradford said...

Mark - yuck.

Jacob said...

The movie never hints that Juno and the natural father will think about that baby every night before they go to sleep for the rest of their lives.
Sorry, that's simply not true. After she has the baby there's the scene where she's just sobbing that she has to give him up.

Freeman Hunt said...

All through human history people old enough to make babies have been raising them. Only in the modern age do we expect to live as self-indulgent children into our late twenties or thirties and "find ourselves" before being expected to take responsibility for what we do.

He does have a point there.

Jason said...

The last time I saw a pro-life movie was "Night Watch" in which abortion is literally considered evil. It struck me as really odd at the time.

It's weird that more people don't have abortions in movies. Hollywood is supposed to be liberal after all. They happily make movies with pedophilia, rape, and all sorts of sex. But no abortion? Cowards each and every one of them.

TRundgren said...

I thought Juno came across as a parody of an indie movie.

The dialog was insufferable; it sounded like a script writer typing, not characters speaking.

If only Ellen Page suffered the same fate as Sandrine Bonnaire in 'Vagabond'.

blake said...

Mark said, Cripe you just made my point for me. It's considered a cliche for a child to end up being raised by the happy, married mother and father of the child.

It's considered a WORSE ENDING for that to happen!


Yes. Now follow along, because this part is tricky: What is dramatically good is not necessarily true for real life!

It's a difficult concept, I know. But without the evil Empire conquering the galaxy, there is no "Star Wars".

Every movie has messages to it. Every movie teaches something. And it matters to a society what the consistent messages being taught to the young are.

OK, Mark votes for the return of the Hays Office. I believe under the Production Code, Juno would have had to die at the end.

Look, I don't know what message you took away from Juno but if I were to try to mine messages out of it, it would probably be something like: Young men and women should not be left alone together lest they get bored and have sex.

And were I a young woman, I would think, "Geez, she handled it well, but she spent eight months being ostracized, stared at, humiliated, and then she had to give up her baby? That's terrible!"

So, you know, maybe not everyone sees the same message as you, and maybe that's not their deficiency.

blake said...

John Carpenter did an episode of "Masters of Horror" where whacko religious types force a woman to have a baby who, as it turns out, happens to be demon spawn.

Not really pro-life, I suppose.

vbspurs said...

Blake wrote:

I believe under the Production Code, Juno would have had to die at the end.

LOL. True. Probably by Paulie by shoving tic-tacs down her throat. Full circle, you see. Most important.

People who want art to be moral are nothing new, but long ago, I realised that makes for boring stories.

One of my favourite movies of all time, I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang was pre-Code.

Muni escapes from prison, and pays his old flame a visit. The scene was shot in utter darkness, with only a light overhead. She asks desperately at his fleeing figure:

"What will you do? How will you LIVE!?"

"I steal!"

It is one of the most haunting endings of all time. An unrepetant thief escaping into the shadows and freedom.

Sometimes good film is bad life, you know?

Cheers,
Victoria

blake said...

But wait, wasn't Muni innocent?

Wasn't the irony that the chain gang had turned him into a criminal? (Or am I confusing it with Fury?)

amba said...

When was the last time anyone in a movie had an abortion anyway?

Very recently, in that Romanian movie with the name that was the number of months, weeks, and days. (I haven't seen it yet.)

k*thy said...

Great movie & soundtrack - and very Daria. Thanks for the reference. Could be pro-life, could be pro-choice. Funny how the ending could be the same, either way. Though haven't much discussed that - just plain enjoyed it. Good characters throughout.

amba said...

Oops, thanks, Blake. (Working my way through the comments.)

k*thy said...

Well, not funny ha-ha. Self-policing...not a good time for sarcasm. Sorry for that.

Triangle Man said...

Mark said...

Every movie has messages to it. Every movie teaches something. And it matters to a society what the consistent messages being taught to the young are.


Mark, you're never going to sell your script with that kind of attitude.

Revenant said...

He does have a point there.

Actually he's pretty much full of shit. Parents who didn't want or couldn't afford a baby have been giving them up -- or abandoning them, or exposing them to the elements -- for all of recorded history. It isn't a new thing. It wasn't a rare thing. There was NO point in human history in which "pregnant" automatically equated to "raising the kid".

vbspurs said...

But wait, wasn't Muni innocent?

Yes, but that didn't change the fact that he was a criminal at the end by his own admission. :)

peter hoh said...

It's rare, but once again, Rev and I agree about something. According to someone who looked at 19th century records in Philadelphia, a large number of infants died of "rolling over," the euphemism that described the smothering of unwanted infants.

peter hoh said...

I liked Juno. Took my then 13 y.o. daughter to see it. I liked the way the father-daughter relationship was portrayed.

Extremists from both sides of the abortion debate criticized the movie. That's a good sign that the script was not terribly ideological. I thought the movie was pro-life without being anti-abortion.

blake said...

Hmmm. Yes, the interesting thing about 4, 3, 2 is that it's pro-choice and anti-abortion.

Diamondhead said...

Interesting no one mentioned the high-profile movie this year that featured an abortion very prominently. I guess I won't say the name for fear of spoiling it for someone, but I'd say that this film portrayed the impulse to have an abortion as coming from someplace ugly. At the same time there's a safe/legal aspect to it.

blake said...

The Unborn?

k*thy said...

Can it be both? The more I think about it, I'd say it's purposefully ambiguous - it's meant for discussion, debate. She makes a life affirming choice.

Roost on the Moon said...

A pro-life movie is one that advocates the position that abortion ought to be outlawed.

Being "pro-life" doesn't mean you morally consider the fetus. Being "pro-life" is the government forcibly preventing all abortions.

If "pro-life" just means that you don't have to have an abortion if you don't want to, then Juno is a pro-life movie. But that's burying the lede: the pro-life side has finally won! Everybody is happy!

Safe, rare, and legal. It's the only reasonable goal.

knox said...

I definitely agree that the script was a little self-conscious.

But I really liked Juno, and thought it was masterful in its subtlety; I don't think there are any clear answers or a didactic message. And normally that kind of moral ambiuity can seem like a stunt, or is ham-handed and clichedB. But here it was very well-handled. The great acting certainly helped that along.

I love the actor that played the dad. He cracks me up in the Spiderman movies.

knox said...

Oh yeah, I meant to say I share Mark's complaint about the treatment of dads in our culture, but I think in Juno Jason Bateman's character is balanced by Juno's awesome dad.

And I don't think Jennifer Garner having to raise the baby alone is supposed to come across as a perfect outcome. Far from it.

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