JUNO (Film)

Juno has been variously described as
a comedy,
a comedy-drama,
a ‘dramedy’;
a teen romantic comedy,
a quirky comedy
a coming-of-age story;
a ‘coming-of-age-with-a-twist’
as one of a new ‘pregnancy’ sub-genre

Coming of Age Stories
A huge and hugely popular genre involves the ‘coming of age’ of a young boy or girl, often as young as 12 (About a Boy) or even 11 (Billy Elliot). Other recent examples include Looking For Alibrandi, Almost Famous and The Cider House Rules (which also addresses the issue of unwanted pregnancies and abortion). These films often involve achieving a goal against difficulties: Alex, a New Zealand-made film and much better book, is a good example. Kes is the story of a boy from an impoverished background who captures a young kestrel and trains it. Great story, play and film.

Where Juno differs from most of the films in this genre is that its protagonist chooses not to grow up too soon, not to embrace a premature maturity. She rejects the demands of too-early motherhood and elects to remain a teenager. Although she learns and grows through the months of her pregnancy, her character journey is less towards maturity than towards a recognition that she has stepped out of her depth: Oh, just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.
Juno also shares with Knocked Up an underlying theme, a message that is not anti-abortion but rather pro-adulthood. It follows its heroine (and by the end she has earned that title) on a twisty path toward responsibility and greater self-understanding. This is the course followed by most coming-of-age stories, though not many are so daring in their treatment of teenage pregnancy, which this film flirts with presenting not just as bearable but attractive.

In synopsis, Juno sounds much like a typical teenage movie, but it totally transcends the genre in many ways. For starters, there’s Juno’s complex relationship with the adoptive parents, which plays out in surprising ways. The prospective father (a surprisingly great Jason Bateman), an immature writer of jingles for TV commercials, enjoys discussing music and slasher movies with Juno way too much. And his barren wife (Jennifer Garner, never better) craves parenthood so much, she’s almost painful to watch. Movies about teenagers tend to traffic in stereotypes, but that’s definitely not the case here. Juno has an incredibly supportive, working-class dad and stepmom ( an HVAC specialist and nail technician) played with great skill and subtlety by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney.

Comedy
Humour is particularly difficult to define and analyse – so much relies on timing, on personal response, on exact juxtaposition of specific images or ideas. However, there are basically two types :verbal and situational.

Verbal humour is created by the language.
It includes puns, Spoonerisms and Malapropisms. It can come from the conflict of ideas, from the contrast between metaphor and the literal, from incongruities of language. Satire and parody are verbal; caricature can be too.
Situational humour can come from character or from visual jokes.
It includes slapstick, practical jokes, burlesque and impersonation, and deformity (not so common in these PC days but very popular in the past; medieval kings would keep dwarfs and hunchbacks as a source of laughter).
Comedy can come from people behaving in ways that are unexpected, or from putting someone or something usual in an unexpected juxtaposition. Much humour comes from surprise – the response, the action is unexpected. The best humour is economical – created by implicit hints rather than explicit statement.
And humour often comes from the combination of verbal and visual – for example, when the visual does not match the verbal description.
As you study the film, look for the juxtaposition of incongruous images or actions, visual or verbal jokes, including slapstick, witty dialogue and wordplay.

There are two different kinds of humour in the film : humour deliberately created by the characters, particularly Juno, so we laugh with them, and humour created outside of the characters, so we laugh at them

Character-created humour:

-Juno’s smart remarks: “Being pregnant makes me pee like Seabiscuit.”
-the way she shifts the living room set to Bleeker’s place
-filling his letter box with tic tacs
-biting the liquorice rope noose

Situation-created humour
-Juno misunderstands questions and answers inappropriately:
‘Who is the kid? / The baby? I don’t really know much about it other than, I mean, it has fingernails, allegedly’.
‘So how far along are you? / I’m a junior.’
-the contrast between Juno’s description of sex with Bleeker as “magnificent” and the skinny, angel-faced boy who is then revealed.

Visual joke
Juno and Leah duck down to hide from Vanessa -behind glass!
Juno drives a toy car over her stomach
Juno’s feet in striped socks next to Bleeker’s still in muddy running shoes.

Unexpected outcome or response
How far along are you? / I’m a Junior.
Bleeker’s inability to grow a moustache

Expected outcome not achieved
such as the failure to gain a laugh from a joke: Gerrta Rausss; Mark’s “Old Testament” gag
repetition (running gag)
the track team

Contrast / juxtaposition
Contrast between what is said and what is seen: Juno straight-faced about the urn // F/B she is sick in it
‘Welcome to Women Now, where women are trusted friends. Please put your hands where I can see them and surrender any bombs.’

Unexpected behaviour
-Juno sitting in chair with pipe, outside Bleeker’s;
-Bren’s attack on the ultra-sound technician;
-Mac’s comment about Bleeker’s virility

Puns and word-play
-Your chest is going to milktate.
-Chromomagnificence
-Nesting, huh? Are you planning to build the crib out of twigs and spit?
-the Cautionary Whale

Allusion
-MacGuff the Crime Dog; the Cautionary Whale;
-the spy scene in the park; Desperately Seeking Spawn.

Artefacts
-hamburger phone, boysenberry flavoured condoms

Anticlimax
-Maybe they’ll  be super mad at you and not let you graduate or go to Cabo for spring break.
-What if these adoptive parents turn out to be, like, evil molesters? / Or, like, stage parents.

Incongruities of language; contrast between metaphor and literal
-Hi, I’m calling to procure a hasty abortion…
-It’s not like the baby’s going to storm in here any second and demand dessert-coloured walls.
-Nesting, huh? Are you planning to build the crib out of twigs and spit?
-You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods.

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