I watched Juno last night and I was somehow troubled by it. A 16 year old girl (Juno) gets pregnant and she is almost blasé about it. In fact, she looks as disturbed or confused about the experience as if she had misplaced an important math project. Her parents, although resourceful and supportive, seem to reconcile to the notion pretty easily. Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption – there are two kinds of adoption, we learn: open and closed. Open adoption is a system where the adopting family sends photos and updates of the baby to the birth mother. A closed adoption is where the mother hands over the baby to the adopting family that is the child and that’s the end of the matter. “Quick and dirty”, as Juno puts it.
And much of Juno’s journey into pregnancy is nuanced with similar “let’s get it over with” sentiment. For a teenager who seemingly got pregnant the first time she did it, she is so composed. But perhaps there is some reassurance there – that giving birth to baby is a natural thing and no big deal – even if the progenitor springs from someone who is no more than a child herself.
I suppose I couldn’t relate to Juno’s mental make-up. I mean, if it were me pregnant (at this age, leave alone as a teenager), I don’t think I could have dealt with a married man’s advances or a wimpy boyfriend’s thoughtlessness with a hurt look. I guess Juno was a strong, strong girl.
Also, throughout the movie, I expected big things to occur – big twists, dramatic melt-downs, sweeping embraces, great, poetic admissions of love, etc. etc. But all moments of significance lay in some well-crafted, splintered scenes – when Juno discusses her abortion over her hamburger phone, when she decides to keep the baby the moment she realizes that it has started growing nails, when Jennifer Garner – the mother adopting the child – puts her hand on Juno’s tummy expecting the baby to kick but it doesn’t. She sadly says, “This baby does not kick for me.” Juno tells her to talk to the child, and when she does, the baby kicks. When Juno tells her boyfriend that she loves him because, unlike everyone in school, he looks at her face instead of her protruding stomach. When she floods his letterbox with tic-tacs. When they both lie curled on the hospital bed after Juno has delivered her son – and decide not to see the baby before he goes to his new mother. (She has split from her husband, by then.) And my favourite was that bit when Juno sees the difficulty Jennifer is going through with her husband (he doesn’t want the child mid-way in the movie). She knows that Jennifer’s marriage will not last and she (Garner) is already battling doubts about her prospects of motherhood. Juno leaves her a note: “If you’re in, I’m in.” In the end, they both were.
My vote for the best actor in the film is easily Jennifer Garner. I think her role was quite a difficult one to portray – at once needy, vulnerable, and hard as nails. Man, after that god-awful Electra, to see her do this – I mean…serves me right for writing someone off for their choice of movies (or husband, for that matter.)
And the other character in the film that I absolutely, completely got besotted with was the first song of the movie. It’s gorgeous! Like sunshine! “If you were a river in the mountains tall, the rumble of your water would be my call…All I want is you, will you stay with me, hold me in your arms and swing me like the sea...If you were a wink, I’d be a nod, if you were a seed, I’d be a sod… If you were a floor, I wanna be a rug, if you were a kiss, I know I’d be a hug…If you were the castle, I’d be your moat, and if you were the ocean, I’d learn to float.”
It’s a nice enough film, and I can’t quite figure out why I didn’t like it too much. But I suppose I couldn’t quite understand the casual-ness of the whole deal. Maybe I was expecting it to be slightly serious.
It is about children’s challenges after all – Juno’s and her baby’s.