When Juno, the 16-year-old heroine of the movie being marketed hardest to my generation this holiday season, tells her best friend she's pregnant, the friend's first reaction is, "Honest to blog?" CLUNK. But in spite of being forewarned about that line in the movie's ubiquitous T.V. spots, and in spite of David Denby's New Yorker rave—"Juno is a coming-of-age movie made with idiosyncratic charm and not a single false note"—I still held out high hopes for alternastripper memoirist turned screenwriter Diablo Cody's collaboration with 'Thank You For Smoking' director Jason Reitman. But guess what? There are false notes aplenty in this trytoohardy movie. Honest to blog!
When we're first introduced to Juno, she's taking pregnancy tests in a convenience store bathroom and dispassionately blurting the results to everyone within earshot, including Rainn Wilson, the clerk, who calls her "homeskillet." Never having met Juno before, it's tough for us to tell what's behind her oversharing. Are she and Rainn longtime pals? Is she acting studiedly blase, or is she catatonic with shock? David Edelstein has theorized that Juno's just acting her age, or more specifically, acting her demographic: "she's a poster girl (or will be) for the Facebook Generation—the one with zero sphere of privacy."
But later in the film, we see her sweating out her decision to tell her parents about the pregnancy and worrying what kids at school will think. Tone-deaf slang aside, this contradiction is the film's biggest flaw: is being pregs a big deal to Juno, or is it all just a "shenanigan"?
It's also hard to believe in Juno's feelings for her impregnator and One True Love, Michael Cera's Paulie Bleek. True, he is played by Michael Cera, he does wear running shorts pretty much throughout the film, and he does have the 'endearing' habit of eating lots of orange Tic-Tacs. Based on those attributes, and on his, like, three lines, we're meant to root for his and Juno's romance and to understand when, towards the end of the film, Juno apologizes for having been "a bitch" to him.
Huh? Honey, you told him you were pregnant and he stood there across the yard from you all blank and George Michael Bluth-y! A little bitchiness was in order! This kind of missing emotional nuance undermines every moment in the movie that's supposed to be moving, and no amount of heartstring-manipulation from the twee soundtrack can pick up the slack.
About that soundtrack: besides a couple of Tigermilk tracks, the movie is almost entire scored to songs by the alt-folk band the Moldy Peaches. Those jangly duets—clever and catchy at first listen, clearly in love with their own cleverness and rough edges, decreasingly charming upon repeated listening—suit the movie perfectly.