James Leroy Wilson's blog

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Juno

I saw the acclaimed movie Juno last night, and agree that it should be acclaimed. After seeing the movie, I was able to think it through and connect some dots that weren't obvious to me while watching, and appreciate some choices this movie didn't make. Just one example: too often, movies about teenagers put them into cliques they can not break out from, but here we have a smart girl who's into slasher flicks and whose best friend is a pretty cheerleader, and a "nerd" who's into science and distance running - who also plays guitar and is into punk rock! Wow! Who knew that people - even teenagers - have diversified interests!

Of course, the movie is dominated by the outstanding performance of Ellen Page in the title role. But there's something else I hadn't thought of about great supporting performances, until I saw them in this movie, particularly in the scenes involving either Jennifer Garner or Allison Janney. To me, they acted as if their characters didn't know that they were merely supporting characters in another character's movie, they thought they were the "lead" in their own life story. This is related to a statement I once heard or read from Dustin Hoffman: he acts as if the character doesn't know he's in a comedy or a drama. Likewise, supporting characters shouldn't know that they're supporting characters, but rather think are their own individuals living their own lives. Whenever Garner was in a scene, I saw a character with her own life story that made her desperately want to be a mother. When Janney was in a scene, I saw a movie in which a woman with a tense-but-loving relationship with her stepdaughter finds out that the girl is pregnant. I think the reason great lead actors are also great in supporting roles is that they play them as if they are the lead - the character they play wouldn't know any better.

I have heard that Juno supposedly glorifies teen pregnancy. Well, thirty years ago a movie was released called The Eagle Has Landed in which Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall are involved in a German plot to kill Winston Churchill in World War II. Does the movie therefore glorify Hitler and Nazism? Far from it - but we do come to empathize with non-Nazis who just want to bring the war to an end, and the audience hopes the conclusion is satisfactory for them. Likewise, to pull for the best possible outcome for an unwed pregnant teen does not mean one promotes teen pregnancy, only to hope that the best possible outcome unfolds in this fictional story.

And even if Juno does glamorize teen pregnancy, I'm still more concerned about the unprovoked wars, torture and other attacks on human rights, property theft, and inflation coming from Washington than any "immorality" produced in Hollywood.

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