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Why "Juno" is anti-rock

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The soundtrack album, out today, holds the clues about everything that's wrong with this much-hyped film.

In the liner notes to “Juno: Music from the Motion Picture,” the soundtrack album released today, director Jason Reitman writes about how the movie’s star helped choose its music, which was key in setting the pervasive sarcastic-hipster tone.

“Two months before we started shooting ‘Juno,’ Ellen Page was hanging out at my office when I asked her ‘What kind of music do you think Juno listens to?’” Reitman recalls. “Without pause, she blurted out ‘the Moldy Peaches.’” Within seconds, the actress was downloading songs by Brooklyn’s lo-fi “anti-folk” duo, including “Anyone Else but You,” the duet Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, the former Chicagoan born Brook Busey, chose to provide the closing scene between 16-year-old parents Juno and Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).

“This song, more than any other, defined the sound of the film: a patchwork of homemade sounds made by teenagers whose sense of humor and honesty rang through the crappy tape recorder they were using to capture their chicken-scratch lyrics,” Reitman notes. And this points to the heart of the problem with “Juno.”

Here is a 29-year-old screenwriter (Cody) and a 30-year-old director (Reitman) brainstorming with a nearly 21-year-old actress (Page) and deciding that the intentionally primitive and infantile sounds recorded by a 35-year-old musician (Dawson) epitomize “the music that the kids today really listen to.” This sort of contrivance hardly smacks of the honesty and humor the filmmakers brag about, and which many critics have hailed.

“A confluence of perfection in every aspect of the film,” David Weigand wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not a single false note,” David Denby crowed in The New Yorker. The best movie of the year, said my esteemed colleague Roger Ebert. And Michael Phillips added in the Tribune: “For a while you wonder if this story of a pregnant teenager’s coming of age will exhaust you with cleverness. Then, stealthily, everything about the movie starts working together more purposefully. And by the end you’ve fallen in love with the thing.”

Well, no: As an unapologetically old-school feminist, the father of a soon-to-be-teenage daughter, a reporter who regularly talks to actual teens as part of his beat and a plain old moviegoer, I hated, hated, hated this movie. A few of my many problems:

* The notion that kids -- even smart and sarcastic ones -- talk like Juno is a lie only thirty-something filmmakers and fifty-something movie critics could buy. You want accurate wisecracking high-school dialog? Go back to MTV’s animated “Daria” or Sara Gilbert’s Darlene on “Roseanne.” Or, as Juno says, “Honest to blog!”

* Are we really supposed to believe that a girl as intelligent and self-empowered as Juno, when determining the time to lose her virginity via a planned encounter with her best friend, neglects to bring birth control? Or that her endearingly human parents, no matter how non-judgmental, accept the news of her pregnancy so nonchalantly? And why doesn’t anybody, including the father, respectfully ask the ever-sneering Juno her reasoning for having the baby and giving it up for adoption?

* I lived in Minneapolis, where the film is set, in the early ’90s, and every day on my way to work, I passed a women’s clinic besieged by angry protestors determined to deny its patients access. It was no laughing matter, and regardless of your personal politics at a time when the future of Roe v. Wade is very much in doubt, the clinicians, the patients and even the protestors all deserve more complex, nuanced and thoughtful portraits than the simplistic and insulting caricatures drawn by Cody.

We can debate whether the message of “Juno” is anti-abortion and therefore anti-woman, despite its arch post-feminist veneer. But there’s no arguing that the movie is anti-rock, at least if we still define rock as an honest expression of youthful rebellion.

Sure, Juno gives lip service to loving Iggy and the Stooges and Patti Smith. But there isn’t a hint of the anger and lust for life of those pioneering punks in the sort of twee indie-rock that Juno loves. The soundtrack is dominated by the sickeningly saccharine Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, Antsy Pants and most of all Kimya Dawson, who claims seven of the 19 tracks.

Dawson first made her name beside Adam Green as half of the Moldy Peaches, but that band went on hiatus in 2003. Since then, she’s been a prolific solo artist, pausing only to give birth to a daughter named Panda Delilah in 2006. Dawson attempts to channel her own inner infant with deliberately sing-song vocals, beyond-amateurish musicianship and faux-juvenile lyrics. A sample from “Loose Lips,” which powers a key scene in the movie:

“So if you wanna burn yourself remember that I love you/And if you wanna cut yourself remember that I love you/And if you wanna kill yourself remember that I love you/Call me up before you’re dead, we can make some plans instead/Send me an IM, I’ll be your friend.”

Those lines treat the very real problem of teen suicide with the same glib insincerity that “Juno” adopts while addressing teen pregnancy. Reitman may be right when he says the movie found its ideal soundtrack.

Yes, Sonic Youth also appears on the album. But the underground icons are represented by their ironic, smarmy cover of the Carpenters’ “Superstar.” And in the film, Juno actually mocks the would-be adoptive father, Mark Loring (Jason Bateman), for championing the Melvins and Sonic Youth, whom she dismisses as “just a lot of noise.”

We are encouraged to see Bateman/Loring as hopelessly immature -- unlike paradigms of virtue such as Seth Rogan in “Knocked Up” and Nathan Fillion in “Waitress,” those other recent tributes to unplanned pregnancies -- because he bails on his obviously troubled marriage when he decides he isn’t ready for fatherhood. His stunted growth is illustrated by the fact that he’s nostalgic for that passe and played-out alternative rock, and he regrets quitting his touring underground band to write commercial jingles. Silly old Gen X’er; doesn’t he know Generation Y has rejected the very notion of “selling out” in the mad rush to buy iPhones, Uggs and Wii consoles?

In the end, in a topsy-turvy movie universe where the teen heroine struts like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever,” clearing a path in her high school hallway with a pregnant belly she treats as the ultimate outsider status symbol, Bateman’s Loring actually can be seen as a more honest and genuinely rebellious character than Juno. At the very least, you know he has a much better record collection.

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View image A teenage romantic fairy tale. I'm a little confused about precisely where we stand at this very moment in the "Juno" backlash cycle, but I predict the anti-backlash backlash will begin any moment now if it hasn't already.... Read More

I love movies that inspire a positive reception, and then a backlash, and then an anti-backlash. That's the sign of a film that's getting under our cultural skins, and the big winner in that regard, neatly wrapping up 2007, was... Read More

I love movies that inspire a positive reception, and then a backlash, and then an anti-backlash. That's the sign of a film that's getting under our cultural skins, and the big winner in that regard, neatly wrapping up 2007, was... Read More

Jim DeRogatis dislikes the Doors, Springsteen, RollingStone, and Ryan Adams. We knew all that. He's also not a fan of Juno, the film or its Kimya-heavy soundtrack. His Sound Opinions co-host Greg Kot doesn't dig it either, but he seems... Read More

Jim DeRogatis dislikes the Doors, Springsteen, Rolling Stone, and Ryan Adams. We knew all that. He's also not a fan of Juno, the film or its Kimya-heavy soundtrack (From his column: "Sure, Juno gives lip service to loving Iggy and... Read More

61 Comments

Whew, that article was a mouthful, but not in the worst sense. Personally, I enjoyed the movie, and did think it was one of the best of the year. Still, that doesn't mean I don't agree with a few points (or maybe the main point).

The biggest one that sticks out is definitely Juno being a "punk-rocker," when none of it is heard in the movie or is even played while she is playing or singing in the movie. There is a scene where she introduces Mark to "her music," and she chooses Mott the Hoople's version of "All the Young Dudes." Even though she makes a note of it, it still does not make her look like a "punk-rocker" in any way.

I actually do enjoy the soundtrack though, and I think it fits the movie well. Kimya Dawson's songs, in particular, epitomize Juno in a lot of ways. Since they have a child-like quality to them, it shows how young Juno is to be dealing with situations like that. She is a young, naive person dealing with issues far beyond her capacity, in her own child-like way, and the songs sound like Dawson is doing the same thing. And, regardless of what you think the message should be, the Moldy Peaches song Juno and Pauly sing at the end kind of tries to tie up the fact that they are still kids, no matter what they had to go through.

As for the abortion issue (not saying I am either way), and how the characters and situation would compare to real life, well, that's an entirely different debate...

I couldn't agree more.

I loved this movie. I do however agree with some of what you wrote. Except after finishing it the only comment I can think of is: Lighten up, it's just a movie.

Eric commented on the "introduction" of "All the Young Dudes" When that scene came on all I could think was what muscian, what music fan has not heard All thwe Young Dudes. I wonder what was next on her cd Stairway to Heaven? Free Bird? Crossroads? Certainly not the Igyy she was touting throughout the movie.

Claiming that something is "just" a movie or "just" an album minimizes the importance of art in our lives, and as a critic who still believes these things matter, I'm never willing to do that. But beyond that, S., "Juno" was not simply another movie released in 2007; according to many critics, it was the best movie of the year! Check out the flowing geysers of gushing praise on Metacritic.

Jim, my "it's just a movie comment comes from the frame of mind of how I view movies, which might be different from how you view movies. I view them as entertainment to get lost in for a couple of hours. Nothing more, nothing less.

I have to agree with every word Jim writes. I walked in with high expections. I walked out never wanting to hear an accoustic guitar ever again.

Could you maybe add a spoiler warning toward the bottom so you don't ruin the last quarter of the movie for someone?

Terrific post. As someone who thought that "Crash" was pure bunk a few years back, I completely sympathize with your confusion over its renowned praise.

I do, however, think you're wrong (which is great--this is why I love art). I have many rebuttals, but I'll only write the following, regarding your dismay at Juno's dialogue: We really need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that we know how characters in movies and plays are supposed to talk. We don't, movies and plays aren't real. In fact, they don't try to be real. Life isn't narrative, movies and plays are. The dialogue spoken by Ellen Page while playing Juno isn't written to suggest a real teenager. It's written to suggest Juno, who isn't a real person, but is rather an illusion of someone who is witty, precocious, outcast and (yes) perhaps a touch insincere.

The point of dialogue is not to sound like actual life, but rather to help tell a story. We should accept the words of the characters in drama movies or plays in the same way that we accept people randomly bursting into song in musicals. It's the world that the writer has created.

Thank god I'm not the only one who didn't think this film was the greatest thing ever made. I'd didn't dislike it as much as you did Jim, but I do agree about the dialogue not sounding like anything any 16 year old would ever say.

I know a movie isn't real life, and therefore the dialog doesn't have to be absolutely accurate either, Nick. But almost all of the reviewers who loved the film made a point of praising the dialog for exactly that reason -- how "real" it sounded! I was disagreeing with them.

Nick goes on to make several other points in his blog, The Alice Variations. I don't agree with him, and he doesn't agree with me. But it's certainly a fun discussion!

As for "Juno" not being a movie about youthful rebellion, well, isn't the central character's desire to live by her own rules, to free herself from the polite expectations of society and to avoid being a cliche the heart and soul who of she is? What are those things if not youthful rebellion?

By the way, I don't necessarily think youthful rebellion is limited to the young: I know some 70-year-olds who can raise more hell than many twenty-somethings. The central tenet of the Vorticists, a pre-World War I British art movement whose philosophy I rather admire, was that the purpose of all art is to celebrate violent structures of adolescent clarity -- which I interpret as "live with the lust for life of a teenager, regardless of your age."

I don't know why I still read your columns. I guess because I love music and I like to read as much as possible about it. Your columns, however, increasingly come off as the views of an old and bitter music critic who's views on music are repeated comments about music not being as good since you were in high school.

Why do you love music? The reason I ask is because everything The Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson do and have done is everything that is wonderful about music. It isn't thoughtless, overly produced garbage without heart or any real meaning. It is the real deal. It is very heartfelt, sometimes tongue in cheek, sometimes shy, sometime bold, and always intelligent and beautiful.

Attacking Kimya Dawson because she's 35, and placing a sample of her lyrics out of context is an example of why I have never liked your column. You "hate, hate, hate" (Check it out. I took a quote from your column and took it out of context.), and every word comes across as negative, narrow minded, and as the forum for an individual who severely lacks imagination. You wish music still sounded like when you were in high school, and Kimya makes music that high school students can relate to, as well as others. It's ironic.


It seems you identify with the Jason Bateman character quite a bit. It's kind of odd considering he was the least likable character in the movie, and came off as a bit of a loser.


Jim,

Couple points: I am not sure where you are getting this from but I think that the charm of Juno is that she isn't listening to what kids today are listening to. In fact, I think that she sets herself apart from the crowd.

I think you are treading on some very thin ice by making the assumption that all "Self-Empowered" and "Intelligent" females would use a condom or protection. In another way, its like saying that the people that do have sex are not Self-Empowered and not intelligent, or that only stupid people would make mistakes like this. In fact, that might be the entire idea of being punk is that you are intelligent but there is a certain defiant nature. Getting a grasp of her relationship with her parents you see early on that her parents are aware that she is intelligent but at the same time understand that there is a certain level of defiance in her. Her parents were expecting the worst when she told them of her pregnancy. This is not your normal child and you can tell she has probably been called into the principals office on more than one occasion.

I think her parents offer a level of questioning but they also "Let Juno be Juno". They understand her character and there is not going to be any changing that.

What was so powerful for me was that a teenager such as Juno is going against the grain and choosing life over death which is exactly the Punk Ethos in my opinion.

As a liberal and a democrat, I think that we have gone on way too long with the belief that being "Anti-Abortion" means that you are "Anti-Feminist" and that the act of childbirth is such a beautiful thing. We have created a message that if you are a teenager and single and you get pregnant that you have "Get Rid" or "Hide It". Juno on the other hand pretty much rubs it in everyones face which I think would be the punk thing to do. I love that. It is refreshing to see someone stand up and make a choice.

The only thing that I would agree with you on is that there was a scene with the female healthcare worker, her stepmother and her that was a bit contrived.

I do not think that Punk needs to be something that sounds like the Sex Pistols. I find the Moldy Peaches very punk because their sound is very much against anything mainstream or traditional and their initial release is still very refreshing both sonically and lyrically. I think punk is the idea that you are thinking outside the norm and thought that this is exactly what this movie is about.

Our society still has a problem with single women wanting to give their children up for adoption. We are supposed to "Get Rid" of the mistake. Juno was very punk indeed.

I am not sure what your guidelines for punk are Jim, but I really think they need to be reexamined.

Hi. I don't care about your opinion of the movie or my music. there are plenty of things I like that other people hate and plenty of things that people are crazy about that I think are painfully annoying, so whatever.

I do want to comment on the lyric you quoted as glib and insincere. I actually read every single email and myspace message and livejournal comment I get myself. I have no staff checking stuff for me. I personally write back to every kid in crisis that I hear from. I care a lot about people. I am in the process of setting up a support forum for people in crisis. I have personally driven to a fans home and driven her to a rehabilitation center when she emailed me asking for help. I can't control how people perceive my intent, but I must try to clear up misconceptions about something I take so seriously.

Maybe you should read about why...
http://users.livejournal.com/kimya_dawson_/275949.html

Eric: When you write that "I think you are treading on some very thin ice by making the assumption that all 'Self-Empowered' and 'Intelligent' females would use a condom or protection," I suppose that, yes, I AM SAYING THAT -- that is, unless this smart and self-empowered girl has made a conscious decision to get pregnant. Is that what Juno did? Because if so, it seals my argument that she seems to view pregnancy as the ultimate "punk/cool/outsider/rebel" status symbol. A twisted message if ever there was one!

Kimya: It is admirable that you read and respond to your correspondents; so do I. I am not saying your individual actions are glib or insincere -- I have no way of knowing and that isn't what I'm writing about. I maintain, however, that those are two traits I have always heard in your music, as manifested by the lo-fi amateurism and celebration of the juvenile/infantile, going back to the Moldy Peaches. But that's just my opinion -- and hey, I didn't like Jonathan Richman after he plugged in and followed the same route/adopted the same attitude, either.

Jim,

The way that I see Juno is that her character has a high level of stubbornness that can be prone to be mislead by not always looking at the consequences of her actions. Intelligent people can make bad choices. Maybe this hasn't happened to you but I am well aware of many decisions I have made that were bad and I did have to think to myself, "How did I get myself into this predicament?".

Maybe that is what makes us humans. We defy logic.

Jim:
A couple of points.
#1- The quote that you took from the song "Loose Lips," out of context, may come across a tad glib. In the context of the song, though, it comes across as a desperate appeal to a loved one. It doesn't at all come across as insincere.

#2- Although I am not happy with the state of the world right now, the blatant consumerism that seems to be rampant among the next generation, I have to challenge your statement: "Silly old Gen X’er; doesn’t he know Generation Y has rejected the very notion of 'selling out' in the mad rush to buy iPhones, Uggs and Wii consoles?"
In truth, it seems to me that it is not the fault of "Generation Y" that this is the case.. It is indeed the Gen Xer's that were so obsessed with capitalism that they found a way to make the next generation little more than a commodity to be bought and sold. They never needed bother with the notion of selling out because by the time they got to the age of reason, they had already been sold. Thanks, Gen X.

Right on brother.

It is indeed the Gen Xer's that were so obsessed with capitalism that they found a way to make the next generation little more than a commodity to be bought and sold. They never needed bother with the notion of selling out because by the time they got to the age of reason, they had already been sold. Thanks, Gen X.

I'm thinking you may be confused with those who are actually in power right now and they are not Gen X...we're getting there, just not fully in control yet. If anything, we're gonna sell out Gen Z. Plus - how can a generation of slackers be obsessed with capitalism?

Jim is right: "Juno" was crap from the very first scenes. First of all, no "precocious" youth would be caught dead drinking Sunny Dee. Second, how many young women go around performing pregnancy tests in front of a convenience store clerk? Also, how many 16-year-olds know who Soupy Sales is? Every line out of Juno's mouth was overwritten. You could practically see a Teleprompter in every scene. Nobody talks like that. The music angle, I couldn't care less about. The dialogue and the story were just garbage.
I know Roger Ebert has been ill, but in recent years I've been losing interest in his reviews.

Jim I think you are wrong about this line "...unless this smart and self-empowered girl has made a conscious decision to get pregnant..." In one instance you are not liking the movie because Juno does not talk like a 16 year old and does not listen to music a 16 year old would listen to. Then you don't like it when she acts like a 16 year old and does not use BC. I can easily see her mindset as being typical of a 16 year old thinking it's only one time, or it can't happen to me. Most 16 year olds think they are indestructible. She is somewhat cocky and is totally stunned when she finds out that she is pregnant. So her mindset may very well have been that of an indestructible 16 year old.

But setting all the previous discussion aside I have to say that if Juno talked like a typical 16 year old, listen to the typical music a 16 year old would listen to and did everything a typical 16 year old would do, then the movie would have been a huge bore and this discussion would never be taking place. Face it she is not supposed to be a typical 16 year old at all.

Jim,

I completely disagree. I usually disagree with what you say, which is why I now rarely read your column . I read the blog yesterday because I was planning on going to see Juno last night and happened to see that you wrote about it. I felt compelled to write then, but decided it would be smart to wait until I actually watched the film before saying your review was bunk. It wasn't so much the review, but your inane assumptions that were ridiculous and that I could have commented on immediately.

So boring.

I could care less about the soundtrack, really, though I think it fit the movie just fine. Do I think the movie was punk-rock? Well, no. But then punk-rock is gone. Punk happened when it wasn't expected. That's the point - it just happend. If you have to say if something is punk rock, should be punk rock or that punk rock is needed, it really isn't punk rock period. That is a bygone era. Valid and important, but bygone.

Looking at the music industry today, I think the soundtrack and what Juno, the film and the character, represented was accurate. The type of film that Juno is fit the type of music that is played throughout and the type of musician that plays that music. No, they're not punk rock, but so what.

As for the other music mentioned - why do you try and categorize what Juno should or shouldn't listen to if you do appreciate music so much? That is probably what I hate about your writing more than anything, you so often try and categorize the type of music and the type of people that should listen to it. It's music, it's there for everyone and open to anyone. The problem with the industry is that there is too much categorizing. Why make it exclusive?

As for believability, in high school, I knew kids, not one, but a few, who talked like Juno. MOre who talked like Juno than Darlene or Daria. I knew kids who acted like Juno. I knew a family, who would have reacted like Juno's. They weren't common, but they do/did exist.

As for your comment about a girl as smart as Juno not using birth control, well, that is a stupid comment. Smart people do illogical things. I did. And I have a daughter. Am I stupid? No. Am I smart? Yes. And I'm well into adulthood, not a confused teenager. Juno was a little messed in the head, but either way - it happens. And it's far from unfathomable.

Get outside the pen.

just to correct you Jim, you said:

"Or, as Juno says, “Honest to blog!”"

Juno doesn't say that, her friend Leah does...

this can't be stressed enough:

"But setting all the previous discussion aside I have to say that if Juno talked like a typical 16 year old, listen to the typical music a 16 year old would listen to and did everything a typical 16 year old would do, then the movie would have been a huge bore and this discussion would never be taking place. Face it she is not supposed to be a typical 16 year old at all."

if you want realism, watch a documentary. Juno is a comedy ala Napolean Dynamite's quirky style, either you get it and find it funny or you don't, but just because you apparently don't, that shouldn't mean those of us who do have some sort of inferior intellect or taste.

as Sly Stone sang "different strokes for different folks"

I read the entire article in the paper itself. I strongly object to pro-lifers being labled as "anti-woman". This is insulting, disrespectful, and could not be further from the truth. Being passionate about the rights of the unborn child does not automatically mean we are against women's rights. What it does mean is that we believe the unborn child deserves the same rights as any other human being; that the mother and child are deserving of equal rights and protections. We don't beleive the unborn child should be seen as less than the human being it is.

As you can see, I also object to the "anti-abortion" term, please in the future I urge you to use the correct term, "pro-life".

I don't know how accurate the portrayals in the film are, but if it saves lives and gets the pro-life message accross, it should be greatly applauded, not put down.

As Juno might say: Silencio, old man.
There does seem to be a generational divide here with this movie. Teens will like it because they like to see teens portrayed in film as super-cool, witty and highly intelligent. Not to mention as "play by their own rules outsiders" who prevail in the end. Which is to say everything that they are most decidedly not!
Older people, will hate this because they realize that 1) they certainly were never like that as teens, and 2) today's teens aren't really like that either.
As for Juno's musical taste, well I imagine Juno's taste does run towards the twee, cutesy indie rock of the movie. And that is just one more reason to hate this snide, self-important, movie character.
That and the film expects us to believe that Michael Cera, the actor or any character he plays, is capable of having sex.

I, too, found the movie disappointing in the face of all its hype. I liked it - didn't "hate, hate, hate" it - but definitely didn't love it.

1. Like someone mentioned, Juno's dialogue was so overwritten, it just tired me out. It's great to be witty, but it was just too much. It did make the movie seem much more glib than perhaps the creators intended. For me, it trivialized such a serious topic.

2. The way the movie glossed over everyone's reaction to Juno's pregnancy - her parents accepted it with virtually no problem - further trivialized it. It seems like the writer used the pregnancy more as a setup for lots of funny punch lines (and there were lots) than a meaningful topic.

I agree that the acting was wonderful - every single character was spot-on. The movie itself just gets an "eh".

Jim,
It's just what the doctor ordered...irony and hipocracy and negative attention to provoke etc.My neighbor was Cody's mom in the 60's and there was a real family drama this movie appears to be flavored from. Sorry, you sound like sour on California Grapes !!Cathy MKNELSON at ARTAREAS.COM artist under 'M's.

Good thing you're not a movie critic!

I very much doubt you would accuse Kimya Dawson of "glib insincerity" to her face, and if you did, you'd whither as quickly as you did when Perry Ferrell gave you his "What, mahhhn, are you a communist, mahhhhn?!?" hippie capitalist "argument" when you directly confronted him about the VIP tents at Lollapalooza on "Sound Opinions." Love or hate the song, you don't need to be all that bright (or a teenager, or a venerable rock critic) to see there's more to the song than what you've written about it.

Also, calling Page "nearly 21" to bolster whatever point you're trying to make about the ages of the creators of the film, reeks of stretching, stretching, stretching to make a point. It's entirely within the realm of reason to believe that she had just turned 20 when the film was being made, or, perhaps, she was even in her GLORIOUS ADOLESCENCE. But, perhaps in your world, even 19 is too old to foist musical tastes upon teenage characters, and by extension, teenagers. If that's the case, perhaps retirement from rock criticism is something you should seriously consider.

Why are you even bringing age into this? You're a 40-something rock critic who sometimes gets in for free at The Metro. This gives you more of "an ear for the kewl kidz" than the makers of a film or the percentage of the audience who enjoys said film? Sheesh.

Let's also take your definition of "rock" at face-value: "An honest expression of youthful rebellion." Fair enough. While I don't have a whole cadre of teens hanging around me telling me what this means exactly (must be nice, Jim...must be nice...) in the '08, I fail to see how this fits into most of the things you shill. Or what's considered rock these days, unless I'm too old to catch how exactly Fall Out Boy is sticking it to The Man. If "Juno" is anti-rock, that certainly doesn't make you "pro-rock" by any stretch.

One final thing: Did you really expect "Juno" to be a hard-hitting expose on teen pregnancy? Do you honestly think a comedy would be served with a Lifetime movie-style abortion clinic confrontation? Articles like these reveal you to be like both the "you kids get off my damn lawn" crotchety old guy you think you're not, and also the soccer mom who thinks she's "with it" by saying catchphrases like "you go, girl" and "don't diss me, homie."


This was just published today in the Village Voice:

"Kimya Dawson looks legitimately terrified. 'I'm totally weirded out,' she announces to a sold-out, mashed-in Sunday-afternoon crowd at Southpaw, largely underage and entirely flush with adoration. Kimya both senses and fears this. 'It's great that you're all here, but treat me normal,' she continues. 'Please don't run up after me. . . . Just walk up to me . . . or I'm gonna go into hiding [pause]. I'm just kidding [pause]. But seriously [pause]. We're all friends here.'

Yes, Kimya suddenly has a lot more friends. Too many, perhaps. By the time you read this, the relentlessly childlike, cringingly sincere thirtysomething folk singer may be the driving engine behind Billboard's No. 1 album. ..."

Nope. Juno and its music didn't strike a chord at all with teenagers. And it took a 40something rock music critic to expose the truth.

http://www.villagevoice.com/music/0803,harvilla,78828,22.html

P.S. - Jim, before you go on again about the music in Juno, you might want to screen Harold & Maude. (For the first time?)

I didn't mind the soundtrack, and I liked the closing song, maybe because they are still kids, just like someone above mentioned, so the childlike sound didn't bother me.
The more I thought about the film after viewing, the less I liked it. The quirky situations were not just quirky, they were contrived. Would you really arrange an entire living room set, necessitating the help of a friend, on your kinda-boyfriend's front lawn to blurt out "I'm pregnant" in the first two sentences? Would you really gather up your lunch and then sit in the trophy case to eat (and since when are school trophy cases open anyway)?
The scene where she meets the potential adopters was the most irritating thing; I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap Juno. Why did she have such a grating, smart-ass attitude? She chose to give the child up for adoption, she handpicked the parents herself, and she was getting a great deal that she helped create. I agree that her dialogue throughout the entire movie was overwritten and ridiculous, but this scene was the worst.
I didn't buy the friendship Juno had with Leah or Paulie. I couldn't see a smarmy, sarcastic cynic like Juno being buddies with a cheerleader-valley girl; how does that fit with her punk veneer? And Paulie, who apparently has to "try really hard" to be cool (and didn't come off as cool in the least), also has to be protected by both Juno and her family from his mother knowing that he knocked her up. He took no responsibility for the pregnancy, was not available to her during her appointments or even just as a pal during most of her pregnancy, and seemed to be completely clueless most of the time. Why would Juno, a clever, witty, intelligent girl who gets angry because he has the freedom of going to the prom without an extended belly, want to sleep with a guy who is so vastly immature by comparison? What, exactly, are they basing their “love” on? I didn’t buy the quick “I’m in love with you” kissy-poo scene on the track since it didn’t fit with the rest of the tone of the film. And that whole creepy shot of Paulie snuggling Juno's dirty underwear just made me cringe.
Sorry to keep ranting, but the whole music back-story didn't make sense. She supposedly likes punk and she's a musician of sorts who played in a band, but was surprised that Mark actually heard of a song that was released in his teen years. Imagine that! And she never heard of Sonic Youth? I don't like Sonic Youth, I also agree that they're just noise, but I heard of them in high school, and I wasn't a punk/rock/etc. fan then, I was a geek who listened to country music and The Mix, and my collection of cassettes included Garth Brooks, Tiffany, and the Back to the Future Soundtrack. And I'm sorry, but anyone who loves Dario Argento (and that's a rare teen who does) has at least heard of H.G. Lewis. These characteristics, as well as the scenes they were featured in, were contrived and felt like an excuse to list all the "cool" references the filmmaker could think of.
To sum this ridiculously long bit up, I found Juno to be an attempt to marry Knocked Up, Rushmore, and Ghost World into a delightful little package but failed on all counts.

Since when has being a teenager not been about contradiction? Wanting absolute freedom, including absolute freedom from responsibility - isn't that what being young is all about? Seems pretty diametrically opposed to me. I'm starting to think you're as bright and open-minded as this article presents you to be.

I promise not to throw my frisbee into your yard anymore Mr. DeRogatis.

Hate to be a jerk, but that excessively long rant labeled Posted by: John S. was actually posted by me; the one below it with my name is not mine.

Thanks.

Thank you for finally showing some sense in this maddening world of Juno Lovefest...I hated, hated, hated this movie as well and mainly for all the same reasons. Thank you for bieng the voice of reason!

Wow. "Anti-Abortion and therefore Anti-Woman". How proud your parents must be of you Jim! To simplistically dismiss a legitimate position as flippantly as you do speaks volumes on your character. Jim, what I mean by that previous sentence is that you possess low character. You like to take the easy way out and put life in black and white. Like a simpleton does. Like someone who is too dim and lazy to actually think. In case it's too confusing for you. Shame on you.

Kudos and really, thanks for bringing the level of discourse on this issue to such a high level. What a fine read along side Sun-Times greats like Ebert and Telander. They must pay Kot an awful lot of money to put up with your mendacity.

I put life in black and white? Hardly. I thought I was saying exactly the opposite, although this is not the first correspondent who has mistaken the point I was trying to make.

For the record, I believe abortion is the most complex decision a woman can ever make, fraught with personal anguish and deep philosophical questions -- so deep, in fact, that entire nations and religions and our greatest philosophers have been unable to determine the issues at its heart: When life begins and what is a "soul"? In the non-secular tradition of our country, our Supreme Court has (for now) left it up to the woman making this most profound of personal choices to decide these questions for herself, and anyone who would deny her that right is, I believe, anti-woman. Though the Roman Catholic church I was raised in (former altar boy here), among others, obviously disagrees.

My position, in short, is that we owe our respect to every woman faced with the choice, whatever her decision in the end. And I thought the scenes in "Juno" set at the abortion clinic didn't do justice to either the women waiting inside, or the lone protestor voicing her position outside.

This review and criticism is anti-rock as well, because Jim DeRogatis is a nerd (beating a dead horse, I know).

Also, I'm done with hearing "teenagers don't talk like that". I am a middle aged father of two, but as it happens, I don't talk like Darth Vader. It's a movie.

I went to see Juno on Christmas day. I hated it. The humor was immature and forced. In no way was it the best movie of 2007, not even in the top ten. It did not explore new topics or introduce something in a different light.

I go to high school in Southern California and I can tell you there are ZERO 'Junos' at my school. I've never met anyone my age who is sarcastic and witty. I'm not doubting that intelligent teens exist, but the main character is a false representation of kids nowaday.

As for the music, I'm afraid that several indie bands will be ruined by this horribly commercial movie. So many average boring teenagers will start to listen to The Moldy Peaches and Cat Power, simply because they're featured on the soundtrack. These bands are speical because they're underground and have a particular sound. Sure they aren't groundbreaking, but they're independent.

Dont see Juno and definitely don't buy the soundtrack.

In the non-secular tradition of our country, our Supreme Court has (for now) left it up to the woman making this most profound of personal choices to decide these questions for herself

It's nitpicking, I know, but surely you meant "In the *secular* tradition of our country", didn't you?

Oops -- YES, I DID mean "secular."

I question the charge that Juno's precociously whip-smart dialogue is "unrealistic." This is, after all, a comedy, and comedies (like all the other film genres) *distill* human experience. They also, for the purposes of entertainment, augment and stylize that experience. Have you checked out the films of the writer-director Preston Sturges? They're rife with impossibly witty dialogue, and some--such as "Miracle of Morgan's Creek," also about an unplanned pregnancy--dealt with serious, real-life situations. Sturges’ characters say things that are far funnier and (depending on the character) far more glittering than the things the viewer would say. So I have no problem with Juno’s lines, which sound impossibly hip and pithy, because that’s the way many people in comedies talk.

Besides, I *have* heard a precociousness similar to Juno's on many a YouTube video blog: Some of those adolescent bloggers are, while still unformed in many ways, jaw-droppingly knowing and articulate. And these teens dramatize--and put qutoation marks around--everything they say and do, in much the way that Juno does--only Juno, being a movie character, is even more adept at it.

"At the very least, you know he has a much better record collection." ?

No.

At the very least, you know he actually HAS a record collection, period.

Loved the article, otherwise - really biting critique of post 00's indie rock. Kudos for calling this trend out for what it really is - too few people do.

yes, yes, yes.

That's pretty much right on, Jim. I came out of the theater with some similar problems that you had. I still liked the movie, but to do so I had to take it way less seriously than many others did.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for slamming this awful film.

I, too, "hated, hated, hated" this movie.

"Not a single false note"?

David Denby is smoking crack.

The most calculated, forced, uber-snarky dialogue in recent cinema history.

I am no fan of the soundtrack (it makes my teeth hurt), but I think you're way off base on the film.

Of course, anyone is free to dislike the film and the over-hyping certainly doesn’t help, but I really take issue with the idea that it is anti-feminist.

I agree that it is not realistic; I see it as more idealistic (in a good way). It is the most feminist movie I've seen in recent memory. Not overtly, politically, feminist, but more "imagine what male/female relationships would be like if there really was equality" feminist. Juno has complete agency over her life and is allowed to make these difficult decisions for herself - without the questioning and second guessing of the baby's father or her parents or friends - and then the people around her just support that decision. Imagine that - the men in her life not assuming they know better; I never cease to be amazed how so-call feminist men become the most ardent wielders of the patriarchy once they have daughters.

“Juno” is completely pro-choice; choosing not to have an abortion is still a choice and choosing to have a kid under less-than-ideal circumstances or go the adoption route does not make one anti-abortion. Being pro-choice is fundamentally about the belief that people - even teenagers - should be able to make their own decisions about what they want in life without various outside institutions and individuals imposing their will. It addresses the fact that choosing to have an abortion is difficult, even if you know you don't want a baby, and sometimes the decisions we make defy logic and explanation - yes, she should have used a condom and maybe she should have had an abortion (and had she done those things, there wouldn't have been a movie). The fact the she makes some mistakes does make her an idiot or less empowered - smart, mature, well adjusted people of all ages do stupid things sometimes.

Clearly Juno’s snarkiness and nonchalance is a defense mechanism to help her cope with the tough decisions she has to make. I think that kind of behavior is pretty typical of teenagers and really quite accurate. I think it’s safe to say that in the end, Juno does the right thing (certainly not every 16 year old is capable of that, but I did say the film was idealistic).

I also think that you misread the intent of Jason Bateman’s character. It is precisely the fact that he “sells out” that his marriage is failing. He has not been true to himself and therefore cannot have a successful marriage. Initially, you do think he’s an immature jerk, but in the end he’s right. He is not guilty of not being able to fall in line and be a good husband; he’s guilty of not being honest about what he wanted in the first place. What’s more, Jennifer Garner's character actually suggests that single parenthood is a completely valid choice and can be a good thing.

I used to live in San Francisco and a lot of the teens there did talk like Juno and listen to anti-folk (before the film came out, I might add). And with the internet it's easy for teens to learn about popular culture in decades gone by.
Why are you attacking everyone because of their age anyway? I think it's time for you to retire, whoever you are.

kids do talk like that...im 21, and my boyfriends little bro and his friends who are in highschool talk JUST liekt eh characters...dont underestimate a teenager's wit

two quick thoughts on your review of the movie

1) by your assumptions, i myself assume you don't have a teenager at home. maybe you didn't talk that way, but i know a lot of 16 year-olds who do

2) i take issue with your quick gloss that there might be an anti-abortion bent to this movie. the entire motive behind the pro-choice movement was for it to be just that, a choice, not an edict one way or the other. both choices are scary, both are life-altering. having that choice is the important part. the choice that you make for yourself is the personal one.

Finally - somebody out there echoes my anti-Juno sentiments! I forced myself to sit through the movie. While doing so, I amused myself by comparing my inner ick to the similar feelings I experienced back in June 2007 while walking past the sell-out kids on Michigan Avenue in line for an iPhone.

Juno was written for them, er ... I mean their PARENTS.

Half of your criticism is directed at the fact that Juno claims to be more realisitc than other movies yet can´t really grasp the youth culture as you know it. Well guess what it seems you don´t know your youth culture. Maybe not all teens listen to that kind of music and many never heard of Kimya Dawson. But the truth is kids like Juno do, the listen to the Moldy Peaches, Belle and Sebastian and marvel at music that was made long before they were born. And yes that isn´t exactly the rebelious rock attitude of the youth culture in the 90s but Juno doesn´t try to be that. Nowadays the real alternativ youth isn´t listening to rock,punk or the likes. Nirvana,the Strokes and all the others have long become mainstream. And the real "outsiders" if you would like to call them that way don´t follow the newest trend, the freshest Indie band from England. They listen to music they like, to old music and yes to some infant women who makes childish music.

How do I know? Because I am young and no matter what anyone will ever say, the only one who knows what the youth likes is the youth itself.

What do you expect from a script written by a paid whore ?

@ Zeiram ( who, I'm certain, is proudly VAPID, like Ms. Cody .... )

Yes, and the Jonas Brothers youth of this insipid generation will always find clever ways to suck on a daily basis.

Oh, oh...wait...try this won. Just because yer young doesn't mean yer alternative. OR right. OR even worthy of our mother---ing time. Sucka !

Kimya Dawson needs to be sending The Shaggs some royalty checks. All that was missing was My Pal Foot Foot.

juno is a sham teen, a loser, and a moron for getting knocked up. for all those who accused mr. deR. of 'attacking' anyone, know that he did not. but i did!

From music standpoint I have to agree with you. My son pointed out that she liked Patti Smith , Iggy Pop, even Mott the Hoople (sorry). and did not like Sonic Youth (again sorry). All that agrees with my taste. But the actual music in the movie was mostly bland drivel. On the other hand, I would like your views on adventure land sound track. That music was all a big part of my life. Thank you for being a fan as well as a critic. I love that you care.

wank*

Jim, you are 100% right about everything you say here. This is the worst film I've ever seen.

In response to MM - Those on the other side of the issue consider "pro-life" to be a problematic term because it implies that we are "pro-murder" or "anti-life." While YOU may indeed believe that to be the case, not everyone does, and I don't see why you have to insist that those who don't agree with you use that descriptor if it makes them uncomfortable. It's disingenuous, and a logical fallacy to boot, to insist that the only "accurate" term for your movement is one that implicates the other side, and thus frames the entire debate from your point of view. I think "anti-abortion" is a an accurate (since you are trying to make abortion illegal, therefore you are indeed, against abortion) and fairly noncontroversial term both sides can agree to describe your side of the debate. I prefer "anti-choice" myself, but I understand that those constitute fighting words in certain company, and choose "anti-abortion" as a more neutral alternative (since I find the term "pro-life" offensive). I'm really curious as to what your reasons are for taking umbrage at his use of "anti-abortion," a term that, coming from a pro-choicer, seems like a deliberate attempt to avoid fanning any flames on this issue.

quit complaining about the movie.
this guy is totally off his rocker because he probably still believes that elvis is still alive and singing.
adults won't like teenage movies, and teenagers will hate adult movies, just like all of you guys are hating on this teenage film!
since when does everyone have to analyze a movie in depth? why do they have to say they "hate, hate, hate" it? do they merely have no lives? i agree to the last one.

the author of this article can certainly drool on for ages like an old man talking complaining about his soup. i got bored reading it because it was like reading one of those books in the "SUPER DISCOUNT SECTION" because no one would bother to believe its sh*t that it claims. its like the "National Enquirer", people see it but they just ignore it because they know that its foundation is fake.

complaining about the dialogue in this movie is like a kid complaining about shakespheare's writing, they just don't understand why this dialogue is being written or spoken.

and how dare this author talk bad about kimya dawson right to her face!

so basically, it's pointless to complain about this movie when you don't even bother to appreciate it.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on January 8, 2008 3:24 PM.

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