Overrated ‘Juno’ fails to explore its theme with sensitivity

March 15th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by admin  

(Film Review)
By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Juno”; Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney; Director: Jason Reitman “Juno”, film about sex, lies and commitment in the American suburbia, has become the sleeper hit of 2007. It even won an Oscar for best original screenplay. But how ‘original’ is a film about a wayward footloose girl’s journey into motherhood and gravity?

We had the theme of a teenage unwed mother giving away her baby to a childless couple as long back as in 1970 in “The Babymaker”, where Barbara Hershey was the hired womb. Later, Glenn Close hired a surrogate in “Immediate Family”. In recent Bollywood history, Rani Mukherjee got Preity Zinta to become a surrogate mother in “Chori Chori Chupke Chupke”.

So what makes “Juno” so special? If it’s the ceaseless spurt of one-liners and comebacks, then sorry it’s not enough. The sassiness that masquerades as exuberant joie de vivre get to you after a while.

Juno, played with bristling brio by Ellen Page, is one of those untameable teenagers who should have been served more protection from peril by her parents than just condoms. She seems to live in a cuckoo-land of collateral cool where commitment comes with an expiry date and babies are things you don’t plan. They just happen after a quickie in the couch with the neighbourhood nerd who looks as confused as the birds and the bees.

Soon it’s time for Juno, with the help of a rather sharp friend, to tell her parents she is pregnant. Father raises an eyebrow and mildly threatens to hit the boy where it hurts the most. Mother quickly gets down to making a to-do list. So much for parental concern.

Quickly move to a sassy acerbic sonography test scene where the mother gives an unnecessary tongue lashing to the doctor in charge.

These are characters that believe life is as light or heavy as you make it out to be, when in fact the unbearable weight of being alive is never really a matter of individual choice.

When Juno decides to give over her baby to a wealthy barren couple, you expect a certain amount of sensitivity to creep into the bitingly modern take on contraceptive immunity. But suddenly Juno gets romantically involved with the prospective father of the baby who plays the guitar and makes ugly remixed versions of beautiful Carpenters’ ballads like “Superstar”.

Juno’s stride towards motherhood is defined by a series of gags and quips rather than any serious effort to explore the pitfalls of teenage pregnancy.

Sorry, but everything you’ve heard about this much-talked-about film is not true. “Juno” is more about packaging the product in a commercially viable way than pitching it at a tenor that defines contemporary values.

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