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你现在的位置:首页>>群组>>天堂里的笑声>>Juno / USA/Canada/Hungary / 2007

Juno / USA/Canada/Hungary / 2007

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2008-3-17 16:13:07

If anyone were to dispute the notion that first impressions are important to the reception and evaluation of a movie, I think I would have to refer to Juno, which is one of the few movies I’ve watched twice within a couple of months just so I could be confident that my initial reaction was genuine and not a consequence of promotion. Basically, if you can make it through the first 10-20 minutes of Juno, during which the viewer is unremorsefully bombarded with what has to be a serious contender for the title of “most painfully contrived and strained dialogue ever written,” you might actually be able enjoy a rather engaging film that has regrettably become a victim of its own hype.

 

Maybe it was the hangover suffered from having Little Miss Sunshine’s publicity forcibly poured down everyone’s throats last year, but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a collective effort to resist Indiewood’s hype quite like the hostility exhibited within the numerous negative reviews I’ve read over the past few months that vehemently chastise Jason Reitman’s teen-pregnancy comedy, and more specifically take aim at the quirk manufactured by the film’s much-publicized writer, Diablo Cody. Part of me is relieved that critics are finally resisting the promotion of studio-sponsored “independent” films, which usually feel assembled from focus-group findings in order to target a specific niche audience. Another part of me is concerned that critics have predetermined perceptions of the films they watch (of course, this is unavoidable to a certain extent), which makes the actual experience of watching the films almost useless.

 

Unfortunately, Reitman’s film and Cody’s script basically throw down an ultimatum to their audience right away, almost demanding that the viewer decide immediately whether to get on board or not. The sheer volume of relentlessly “clever” dialogue that inundates the viewer within those first few minutes, replete with incessantly hip, excruciatingly random, and (I’m assuming) supposedly impressive pop-culture references, might become too overwhelming for many viewers to maintain any type of impartial viewpoint upon the rest of the filmmakers’ efforts. I know I found it incredibly difficult to avoid becoming overly resistant and biased towards the central characters and the story that soon followed, especially after having to suffer through Rainn Wilson’s atrocious cameo.

 

Though clumsy and desperate, the adolescent wit of the opening dialogue might be a shrewd method to hold the attention of younger audiences, but it actually made me (and a friend) wonder how severely the rest of Cody’s script had been adjusted over time as more drafts were made and more advisors brought in to the project. If the last 2 acts continued to use the blueprint of the 1st act, I might have had to hunt down and burn the original film negative. Honestly, if anyone can provide me with a thoughtful justification for why Cody’s surrogate character, Juno, says “silencio” other than to astonish us with the fact that Cody enjoys Mulholland Drive I would genuinely love to hear it.

 

However, Reitman’s latest film is mildly successful despite the preliminary dialogue crafted by the film’s recently f√™ted screenwriter. By the time Juno yells “Thundercats are go!” I seriously considered throwing (someone else’s) food at the screen and I was ticked off with myself for not bring rotten produce with me to the theatre, but I was also actually sincerely interested in the story. As annoying as the characters might be when they’re spewing their needlessly hip dialogue, I was actually engaged enough to worry about their fate. Strangely, when the characters aren’t anxiously attempting to demonstrate their sophisticated sense of cool to one another, they’re actually quite sweet and charming in their honesty and vulnerability.

 

In my mind, most of the credit should probably go to the cast of actors that Reitman has astutely cast. Reitman’s actors are able to nimbly navigate through dialogue that veers into irritating far too often, mostly because they deliver their lines while subtly conveying the flaws of their characters. The most notable of these performers has to be Ellen Page, who seems quite capable of carrying the entire production on her petite shoulders. In fact, I’m certain my entire perception of the film altered drastically from aggravation to unadulterated delight after watching Page insouciantly bound up the stairs of the Loring’s McMansion, effortlessly conveying all of Juno’s youthful energy and adolescent naïveté within one simple creative choice.

 

While the rest of the cast members turn in solid, if somewhat undemanding, performances, some sort of credit also has to go to Jason Bateman, who has to have one of the most thankless roles ever created. As Mark Loring, Bateman’s character is essentially the only character who is not allowed to redeem himself from his disgraceful actions, basically ostracized to his big city loft in order to continue life as an immature adult who chases adolescent fantasies while everyone else grows up to accept some form of responsibility in their lives. I’ve heard some critics attempt to characterize Mark as a big brother figure to Juno, but even if Mark sees youthful potential in Juno or a soul-mate from a different generation, these descriptions seem like a wishful and disingenuous interpretation of an adult who is bordering upon an inappropriate territory. In fact, while watching Mark and Juno bond over movies and music, a teenage girl sitting behind me was weirded out enough by the dynamics of their relationship to actually exclaim “gross!” Yet, Bateman somehow makes Mark sympathetic instead of just plain creepy, and that takes some seriously subtle skill for such a mildly disturbing role.

 

Of course, there are plenty of problems with Juno as well, including its cavalier inclusion of ethnic characters. Someone seriously needs to tell Reitman (and maybe Cody) that simply including characters from various ethnic backgrounds isn’t enough to be viewed as progressive, since it also depends on how these characters are depicted. In this sense, Juno seems ridiculously misguided, with Asian characters constantly popping up as either comic fodder because of their lack of self-awareness or simple as rude characters that are included only to develop other characters. It’s not a heinous crime by the filmmakers, but it’s certainly offensive from where I’m standing.

 

In the end, I’m slightly ambivalent towards Juno, since part of me is impressed while part of me is repulsed and I still can’t shake the feeling that the movie is more product than personal statement, especially considering it side-steps the more thorny aspects of its subject-matter. However, one thing is for certain: if I ever meet someone who actually drops the phrase “honest to blog” within a normal conversation, I don’t think I would hesitate to punch them in the kidneys.

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