Juno, like a lot of other Independent films of the last 6 or 8 years, has that heavily marketed independent feel. That coming-of-agedness. That whiplash of the ironic and the adorable. These are smart films that unroll predictably before our eyes, winking knowingly at us while also trying to appeal to the pocketbooks of a wider audience. I am thinking of such recent films as Thumbsucker, The Squid and the Whale, and the little movie that could: Little Miss Sunshine. In fact, if you watch the trailers for these films back-to-back, their marketing campaigns will suddenly seem embarassingly derrivative.
I liked Juno, just as I liked the other films listed above. And I would have liked them even more if I had seen them when I was in high school, when any film that didn’t have a soundtrack full of top 40 hits seemed original and even brilliant. Despite R-ratings, many recent Independent films do seem to have a late-teen, early 20s audience in mind: an audience on the brink of waking up from its overly marketed existence.
And for this audience, Juno would indeed sparkle. The ambivalence that the main character of this film feels about adulthood seems to be the the movie’s largest theme. Adults are too overbearing, too controlling, too lenient, too quick to capitulate, too unsure, too desperate, too much like teenagers trying to figure out how to act in their oldish bodies. In the end, all these misgivings somehow add up to affection and affirmation. We–the audience–want better for the adult and non-adults of our human race, and indeed, Juno gives it to us. Both young and old come out on top in Juno, Thumbsucker, and Little Miss Sunshine. No one wins. No one loses. They all just are who they are. And we love them just the way they are. And that’s just fine.
And if that doesn’t warm your heart (or luke-warm your heart) then you’re probably better off watching more mainstream fare.
Or perhaps a non-American film.
Or maybe an independent film from the 1990s.