Monday, 2 November 2009

2 Years too late: Juno is a Terrible Terrible Film

Fuck me I hated Juno. What is it about it that I hated so much? I mean, I hated it perhaps more than any film I have ever seen. I have ideas, I can take a stab at guessing, but there is just something intangible, something elemental that I don't like, and it has lived in my brain since I first saw it.  When I was in my arrogant early twenties and Zombie came out, I swore that I could never see eye to eye with someone that liked The Cranberries. Now I’m in my arrogant early thirties I feel exactly the same way about Juno.

I first watched Juno in the States.  It hit me like a punch to the gut.  It was the most irritating film I’d ever seen.  I tore through the reviews looking for reviewers who thought the same as me, that hated it as much as I did but, to my horror, Juno got universally stunning press.  It currently has a freshness rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I waited eagerly for the film to be released in the UK.  Surely the UK press wouldn't give this blindingly fake piece of crap the time of day?  Surely they would tear it to pieces?  But again I was confounded to see that it got brilliant notices.  So it was just me, right?  I truly felt isolated, as if this was Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  I just couldn't understand why people didn't see what I saw in this movie. But when I Googled "I Hate Juno" for the first time I discovered a significant undercurrent of dissent. Dissent like this Facebook group started by two shining lights of common sense in the Juno loving void that is popular opinion called Jesse Farrenkopf and Erin Cesaro. Confused people all over the world were arguing on forums and blogs with similar ideas to me.  I found some reviewers that had major issues with the film; very few, but they did exist.  So what was it about Juno that I found so hard to swallow? Why is it so divisive?

Some have said that Juno is shit because the dialogue is "fake" and "contrived" but I don't think that this is it. Films aren't real life, I know that, and Juno doesn't pretend to be a documentary. Juno is so arch, so knowing, so self confident in its own hip-ness and now-ness, it is a film designed to make its audience feel trendy, a back slapping roller coaster ride for the self regarding who mistake sarcasm for irony and utterly random pop culture references for a true decent, and meaningful, understanding of pop culture. People that would label themselves as trendy. They "get" Juno. It seems, on the surface, to be a perfect example of a film that they should like, so why would they not like it? It hooks the superficial in with its approximation of cool, but there is nothing, nothing at all, below the surface.

Trendy is an impossible thing to pin down.  You think you have caught it but when you lift up the glass, you have killed it. When you strive to capture the essence of cool, you instantly destroy it. The system can cynically create trends, no problem at all.  It can roughly document the trends of the past, obscuring the detail, but when it comes to reacting to trends or representing the presently trendy, it hasn't got a fucking clue. You start off thinking 'Brilliant, I’ve got a trendy script with hip dialogue going on here. Teenagers are going to be queuing up to see this' and, most of the time, what you've actually got is Gleaming the Cube.

The worst scene? The bit where they are discussing which bands are cool. Picking any band would have been bad. What the writer is doing here is making it known that THESE ARE THE BANDS THAT SHE LISTENS TO and THIS IS THE TYPE OF FILM THAT SHE LIKES and THIS IS WHAT IS COOL with a loud hailer. The scene seems to only exist because the writer wanted to make these statements. And who wouldn't have heard of Mott the Hoople? It like listening to your dad trying to talk about 'the hip hop' and so incredibly forced. When have you ever seen a band referenced like this in a film before that hasn’t been either ironic, or you are supposed to make value judgements about the people picking the bands? Take the films of John Hughes for instance. In all of those movies the bands are there, they are part of the fabric of the teenager’s lives, maybe on a t-shirt or on a poster, but he never mentions the current pop culture of the day. It’s suicidal. Imagine Ferris Bueller saying to Cameron ‘I’m on my Hamburger telephone, wanna come over and pick me up? We can listen to some Zigue Zigue Sputnik?’ he just wouldn’t do it!

The choice of bands for the soundtrack is as contrived as the dialogue.  Look at the sparkling list of pop naives’ littering the soundtrack. Kimya Dawson? Child voiced whine-cock. Barry Louis Polisar? Faux folk nursery twat.   The sugary tweeness of the list, and their close proximity to one another, means that the soundtrack runs the risk of becoming some sort of twee black hole, sucking in, and destroying forever, the reputations of any mildly decent band that comes within sucking distance. At one point I thought "what this film is missing is a twinkly Belle and Sebastian song" and low and behold, up one pops. Shame on you Stuart Murdoch. And Juno would never like Sonic Youth. Cody hangs out with people that think Sonic Youth are Cool, there is no concession made for the fact that Juno is half Cody’s age. It feels exactly like a script about teenagers written by an irritating thirty-something hipster. And, like someone loudly mentioning how many drugs they did the weekend before, or name dropping the shitty band that they got on the guest list to see, making statements about this sort of thing is a dangerous game to play.  It is very easy to look like a self regarding prick.

Even great artists are capable of dropping the ball like this, sometimes.  Graham Linehan, a man I love for his comedy writing, is obsessed with Guided by Voices.  He inadvertently destroyed a tiny part of that which he loves so much when he put this glaring name drop in an episode of the IT crowd.

I'll make up my own mind what's cool thank you, and as good and funny as the IT Crowd is, very funny indeed, it's a sitcom, not Melody Maker. The earnestness sticks out like a sore thumb.

You could understand it if Juno was flagged as arrogant or ignorant or naive but she never is. If, when she picked up her hamburger phone and said “I’m talking on my hamburger phone” the person on the other end said:

'You’re such and arrogant loser, let me come over and see your hamburger phone, then ask you about it, then you can go "yeah I got that the other week I like it" and then move on and I will go "wow, that is an interesting pop cultural artefact she has, and she is totally not waving it in my face. I want to be as cool as her."'


I don't want to make judgements about Diablo Cody, she may well be a lovely person who is deeply misunderstood, but she changed her name to Diablo Cody. If I knew someone that did that, I wouldn't be their friend anymore. I would tell them they were a fucking idiot. It wouldn't take anything else. That would be enough. Honestly. Change your name to Alison James? Fine. Jackie Edwards? Fine. But Diablo Cody?

Diablo: "My name was Helen Peterson, but I changed my name to Diablo Cody"
Mum: "Why did you do that? It's a terrible name"
Diablo: "I think it makes me sound really different. It makes me stand out. I wanted a name that fitted with my internal idea of myself as a crazy, wide eyed rebel."
Mum: "Please don't do it, it will make you sound like a stripper. Or an alternative porn actress who specialises in fisting"
Diablo: “I’m also going to get loads of tattoos, what do you think about that?"
Mum: "Oh dear, then you will sound and look like a stripper or an alternative porn actress who specialises in fisting"
Diablo: "Yeah, well, about that... I’m also going to become a stripper."
Mum: "Whatever you think is best dear, we will do our best to support you"
Diablo: (interrupting) "...Fuck off you square. I'll do what I like!  ...Oh, you don't mind and aren't really shocked at all. Thanks’, Mum. Can you lend me a fiver?"

There are a lot of people that say the hate directed at Cody is because she is a woman. And I’m sure that there are a fair amount of misogynists that hate the attention she is getting purely because they don't want to see a woman succeed. But how many other writers do you know that get the levels of attention she has been getting? I know the names of two writers, Paul Schrader and that guy who wrote Sliver and Basic Instinct. That's it. Now that Diablo Cody exists I know the name of three writers. She is hamstrung from the start. The moment she was pushed by the studio to be a 'name writer' and given endless interview time, people start to get pissed off. She would have had to have been a preternaturally charming and witty person to get over the initial "Why the hell are they so obsessed with the writer" resentment.   She is being pushed in the promotional adverts for Jennifer's Body as "The Genius Behind Juno". Add to this the obvious promotion of her "alternative" and "bad girl" persona, which would rile a few thousand extra potential viewers, and her obviously stratospheric self regard, and you begin to see that Juno being so divisive was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe it's just that the film makers tried to make something different and exciting and I just didn't get it. I like a lot of 'American independent' films. I loved Napoleon Dynamite; it made me swoon with jealousy with its spare script and brilliant execution. I liked Little Miss Sunshine. I thought it was low key and just the right side of sentimental. But Juno just stuck in my craw. I'm willing to accept that I am out of touch, but the reaction to Cody's follow up (movie), Jennifer's Body and the shear amount of people that just simply hated Juno, often for very similar reasons to myself, makes me think that I’m at least a little bit vindicated.



  1. You got it out then! At last. I can never have an opinion about this film because you spilled the beans before I'd seen it. I'd like to think I'd have agreed with you had I seen it with fresh eyes - worryingly though I can never be 100% sure. great post. x

  2. You have no idea how much I enjoyed reading this. By the way, I'm glad someone else immediately knew what that band name dropping scene really was.

  3. Hmmm. Interesting. I agree with you, in that I think Juno is a crass film. However, for very different reasons. Am I the only one that felt it was an ever so subtle way of ramming the bibles down our throats?? It is a Pro Life film - nothing more and that irritates me no end.

  4. Entirely right - I hate that shit on every level. Actually it gets under my skin in a perverse way - something just isn't right about it. I think essentially the film is completely and utterly stripped of masculinity, therefore impossible to relate to. But so are other shows and films... no, what it is is that it is stripped of all conventional gender and age roles - or rather they are blurred to such as extent the film is almost impossible to relate to. And, as you describe, the crass tastes of the writer is then superimposed on top of this.

    The worse thing is there is clearly some kind of mass-collective desire to follow the crowd, particularly among critics, in voicing approval. People say they get it, without saying what it is. There is a branch of independent filmmaking which masquerades as intellectual, but in fact mystifies - re-enforcing some kind of middle-class clique that wants to say to the ordinary (mostly male) plebs, 'this isn't for you - you can't understand the irony'. I don't care how many good reviews Juno gets, it's still a pile of crap.

  5. i found this by googling 'i hate juno' too.
    what a beautiful rant.

  6. Early thirties? You fib, Sir!

  7. I too found this by googling I hate Juno. I will add that as an adult adoptee, I hate the movie with the kind of loathing I usually reserve for date rapists and Sarah Palin. If anyone involved in that piece of landfill had any courage at all, or had a micron of the authenticity they all seem to so desperately crave, they would never ever stop crying over the sadness that is at the core of adoption, and the deep, real wounds that for most adoptees, rarely, if ever heal. I'd rather see the Muppets perform a tale of relinquishing a baby...yes, Grover has infinitely more humanity than Juno's filmmakers. Someday the people involved in the making of Juno will experience real authentic anguish and it will be the shizz, dog. That's the movie I want to see.

  8. You are very right and need commendation about Juno. I had same reaction but just kept bitterly silent thinking the world had gone further mad.
    I think for me, the incessant slurping of the hipster orange juice--"look--I'm drinking not just orange juice, but a whole 2 gallon jug of it that you can't even find in stores and walking around uncaring what I look like--I'm so innocently hip."
    You are right, the writer clearly thinks she is concealed, but everything is just telegraphed to reflect her own contrived hipsterness

    Matt Parker

  9. What is sooo obnoxious about the film Juno is that it is adoption propaganda disguised as a hipster movie. That also the reason it got such rave reviews. It is pushing the "give up your baby so it can be sold" agenda. Many hipsters grew up in mega- churches where that sort of thing is preached and the whole movie is a stealth stab at their hearts with a basic message of "give up your baby you irresponsible whore." Then it gives all the reasons age should give the baby up from the fact the she's such a smart-a$$Ed little idiot to feminism and some single woman needs her baby. Adopted people hate that movie and I think other people hate it but don't understand why, but upon deeper inspection hate it because it is one of the most irresponsible films if all time. Adoption is not the easy snap answer to abortion. What society should do is support single mothers and fathers in being responsible and raising their own kids. I don't mean welfare, I mean have a supporting attitude instead of "get rid of your unplanned kids one way or another." In the end Juno is one big fat irresponsible lie and it was really annoying to see young people tricked into thinking giving up their first born was gonna be "cool." Yea right. It was also very irritating to think of all the babies that will be given up to people that will never love them as much their real teen parents would have, who were not perfect but could have made it if society hadn't done all it could to destroy their family.


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