Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The other day Eric and I watched Juno. Now, I realize that all of you back in the U.S.A have read all about this movie and most likely already seen this little gem of a film already. You probably didn't truly appreciate the nine dollar ticket price or the fact that the film was in the English language and just received four Oscar nominations. In all likelihood, you didn't take a moment to savor the sheer scale of the massive popcorn so readily available or the convenience and calorie free pleasure that vast barrel of diet coke offered you. (Just try to find Diet Coke in a soda fountain in China. I dare you.)

But I'm not bitter about the movie theater experience available to us here in China. Far from it. Instead we get to watch pirated award screeners in bed on the computer with bizarre English subtitles translated first into Chinese and then back again via the miracle of the internet. I promise to transcribe it sometime, it is truly mind blowing. And we've got our cans of Diet Coke from the Seven Eleven (they don't even sell Diet Coke in six packs here, that's how few people drink it, you've got to buy it one can at a time.) and a bag of microwave popcorn in any of a variety of innovative flavors like Strawberry! Lychee! Chocolate! (Not as terrible as they sound, actually.)All of these little "extras" we'll call them, really do a great deal to enhance the viewing experience.

But I digress. Back to the film itself. It was just so perfectly paced and developed. For the few of you who haven't yet seen Juno, its the story of a quirky sixteen year old teenager living in the suburbs (in Minnesota, coincidentally) who loves sarcasm, slasher movies, bizarre slang,and Patti Smith and talks on a telephone that looks like a hamburger. She gets pregnant after having sex with her best friend because she is bored. She decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption and the story begins to take shape when she meets the perfect couple who want to adopt her baby.

What was so extraordinary about this movie was how utterly ordinary it was. This is a common story, but one you've never seen on a movie screen before. Her family and friends are ordinary, middle class people full of ordinary, middle class details. But oh, what details they are! One of my writing teachers once told me that the difference between good writing and sentimentality is specificity. And the specificity here creates an intimate knowledge of the people in this family.

Juno's step mother is a nail technician who loves dogs but can't have one because Juno is allergic "to their saliva". So she spends her time decoupaging dogs onto objects and cross stitching their likenesses onto pillows. Her father is a salt of the earth heating and air conditioning repair man with a buzz cut and lots of sarcastic advice. Her best friend and the baby's father is a quiet, dorky kid who runs track in spectacularly yellow running shorts and whose nervous tick is eating thousands of orange tic tacs. He also happens to be madly in love with Juno.

But Juno is the one who steals the show with her charisma, sarcasm and off kilter point of view. She is totally her own person. When she meets the prospective adoptive parents in their perfect, antiseptic suburban home in "Glacial Estates" she wonders aloud why they didn't "go to China for a baby. I hear they are giving 'em away like free i-pods over there. They shoot 'em out in t-shirt guns at sporting events,you know?"

The scene in this little movie that really got me was late at night at the kitchen table. She's having a glass of juice and her Dad is repairing a heater motor. Juno asks him if it's even possible for two people to stay together forever. And he looks at her and utters these immortal words: "You've just gotta find the person who thinks the sun shines outta yer ass and hold on to them no matter what." So that's the secret then. Go see this movie.

1 comment:

Brandon Till said...

Wow Becky, you should be a movie critic (or maybe a China critic) and I agree with you, Juno is a great flick. My only "complaint" is that Juno (who I call Kitty Pride from her role in X-men) should have gone back to give Jennifer Garner her note of "I'm still in if you are" after the speech from her father.

I think it would have made a lot more sense for Juno to take her father's message as true for herself in her love life and realize that even though her son/daughter wouldn't be with the "perfect couple" that Jennifer Garner would love her baby as if "sun shines outta yer ass and hold on to them no matter what."

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