Thursday, August 27, 2009

Battle of the Netflix Stars #8

Bout #8: Battle of the Ultra-Hip Movies About Sardonic Young Adults (in which Michael Cera plays Michael Cera)


Movie:Juno



Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist


Year:20072008
Director:Jason Reitman
Peter Sollett
Star Power:Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, and my man J.K. Simmons
Michael Cera, Kat Dennings
Plot:After a one-time tryst with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Cera), quirky teen Juno MacGuff (Page) discovers that she is pregnant. Deciding that she can't go through with an abortion, she searches for adoptive parents for her unborn baby and quickly finds Mark and Vanessa Loring (Bateman and Garner), who seem like the ideal couple to raise her child. Over the following nine months, Juno discovers that the Lorings may not be as perfect as they seem (especially man-child Mark), and that Paulie may be closer to perfect than she originally thought.
Nice guy Nick (Cera) is dumped by his vixenish girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena), for whom he makes countless mix CDs that she promptly discards. Tris's girlschool frenemy, Norah (Dennings), routinely nabs the unwanted discs for herself and fantasizes about Nick, her "musical soulmate," whom she's never met. That all changes when Norah randomly kisses Nick later that evening as part of a ruse designed to get mean girl Tris off her back, not realizing that her fake bf is Tris's real ex-bf. The paths of these characters continue to cross throughout the evening, as well as with those of Norah's drunken friend, Caroline (Ari Graynor), Nick's fun-loving, gay band members, and Norah's quasi-boyfriend (Jay Baruchel), as everyone tries to find the site of a secret gig by Where's Fluffy, a mythical underground band.

Pros:Jason Bateman, who can always be counted on for a solid acting job and serious cuteness; J.K. Simmons, who is always delightful; Olivia Thirlby as Juno's best friend, for reminding us what a teenage girl is honestly like

Dennings and Cera's chemistry; genuine and believable performances by everyone
Cons:The music. It makes me want to punch babies. And then there's nearly everything else. I'll try to sum up below.

If you're not from (or have ever lived in) NYC, you may feel a bit detached from the story, as it sometimes feels less like a love story and more like a love letter to the city and its music scene.
My Thoughts:I think this has to be one of the most overrated movies I've seen in recent years. I remember just feeling alarmed after seeing it and subsequently asking my teenaged nieces, "Do you think that movie made teen pregnancy look not-so-bad?" Even more alarming was that they never properly answered the question.

Although I nearly shut the movie off during the first half-hour (in which we are all hit over the head with how super cool and "different" Juno is), I will hand it to Ellen Page. It's amazing that I can still see what a good actress she is despite the fact that I want to strangle her character with the cord of her oh-so-ironic hamburger phone. In fact, all of the performances are quite good; it's the story with which I have serious issues.

First of all, Juno plans a sexual encounter with her friend out of "boredom," but neglects to use protection, and is then surprised to find out she's knocked up. What? Diablo Cody goes out of her way to make sure we all know just what a sharp gal Juno is, so this set up makes the movie flawed from the get-go.

Secondly, the lack of believable characters makes all the good performances moot. Juno's parents are way too casual about her predicament. And Juno herself...well, everything about her is just RIDONK. Fo shiz.

Thirdly, the ending pisses me off to no end. (SPOILER ALERT!) There is a fleeting glimpse of Juno finally having some feeling for the baby that she has just given up and will never know, and then it's suddenly spring and she's riding her bike and making super cool indie music with her super cool indie bf again, and all is right with the world. I'm sorry, but what message does that send? Maybe it's just supposed to be a quirky comedy and not send ANY message but if that's the case, then that's just irresponsible. And it isn't nearly funny enough to get away with that.
It's actually great to put this movie next to Juno because, unlike that movie, this one accurately captures what it's like to be young in the new millennium. It gets across all the sarcasm, boredom, and disaffection with seemingly everything but music in a way that's just simple and true, whereas much of Juno (especially the dialogue) felt like parody written by an adult who doesn't understand these "crazy kids" today.

I've heard some people criticize this movie for having "no substance," but how much substance do you want for a story that unfolds over one evening? If there is too much going on, you end up with Adventures in Babysitting (a movie I thoroughly enjoy despite its high cheese factor), instead of something more subtle like Dazed and Confused. N&N isn't quite as good as D&C, but it is more focused and offers up a real story between two main characters who are easy to root for.

I've also heard some people criticize the ending. (SPOILER ALERT!) Some don't understand why, after finally making their way to the Where's Fluffy show, Nick and Norah decide to go home. Come on, cynics! Where are your hearts? Can you not see that this long and winding search for an elusive band is just a metaphor for everyone's long and winding search for love? Well, Nick and Norah found it.
Final Grade:
C-

B

14 comments:

Bond said...

Have not seen either of these...not sure I want to

red said...

I totally agree about the overly quirky Juno. Super over-rated. I like Ellen Page a lot and really love Rainn Wilson, but that scene with them in the convenience store is just painful!

However, N&NIP was one of my favorite movies from last year. Michael Cera is actually kind of sexy in it. And I'm pretty much exactly like Norah. A+!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

The thing is, regarding "Juno", I actually respected that they made an ending that didn't go the predicted route - them suddenly declaring they wanted to keep the baby and all is happy and neatly tied up. I thought the ending was way more real the way they did it. You give up the baby as planned and go about your life as you always meant. It's way more responsible than saying "these kids kept the baby and were ill equipped to care for it." I thought it was way more positive.

SO THERE. :)

words...words...words... said...

I agree with Red about the first ten minutes of Juno...kind of cringeworthy with the trying-too-hard hipness. But I think it recovered from that and became really good. I like it a lot. Although I agree, the music makes me want to punch babies. Preferably the babies of the people who made those songs.

I also really liked N&N. It was kind of disposable in a way that Juno wasn't, but for that hour and a half you love living with it. And Norah might be a kind of female equivalent of Lloyd Dobler - the sort you hope exists in real life but probably doesn't. And I am with the people that think the end is kind of mystifying. Don't get it.

Cora said...

I went into Juno expecting it not to live up to the hype, but I have to say that honestly I was sucked right into it and was spit out an hour and a half later as nothing more than a sobbing blob of emotion. I. Love. It. Maybe it's because I was a young(ish) mom too, maybe I saw a bit of myself in Juno, I don't know. I just know that movie got under my skin in the theater and still does every time I watch it. Nothing can make me cry like the ending of Juno. *sniff*

SkylersDad said...

I actually loved Juno, and my favorite part of it was Juno's parents who I thought really rocked.

I didn't see the other movie.

CDP said...

I really liked Juno, too, but everyone's right about the scene with Rainn Wilson. I also hated the pipe. But I loved the story and the acting was great...I'm also a big J.K. Simmons fan, and I love Allison Janney, too. Didn't see the other movie, but perhaps will add it to my list.

Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

Great reviews but I doubt I'll be seeing either of these anytime soon.

Penny said...

Awww..I loved both movies. I actually love Michael Cera. I have since Arrested Development. I found that I like Juno more than Nick and Nora. Plus, I love Allison Janney, Jason Bateman and I love Jennifer Garner.

:) Great post darling!

Jenna said...

I didn't hate Juno, but I didn't really love it either. It was a solid "meh" in my book. The acting was sensational, especially when you take into account how terrible the writing was. And I'm still pissed that Diablo Cody won an Oscar for it. So few women writers get Oscars and it has to go to that one? Boo.

I only just watched Nick & Norah recently and I am conflicted. It created a great atmosphere that I really wanted to be a part of. I loved the way it portrayed the city, I loved the music, I loved the colors, I loved the gay guys. I loved the way it was always moving, what with all the driving. Nick and Norah themselves I really didn't care for. Well, I guess Norah had her moments. Michael Cera I'm bored with. George Michael Bluth was awesome, but you can put him away now buddy.

And yes, having been an avid music junkie my whole life, I was pissed they didn't stay for the Where's Fluffy show. The rest of the movie had been emotional without being sappy, why'd they have to start there?

Gifted Typist said...

Ellen page is a hometown girl so there was no option to not like Juno, but secretly it irritated me for similar reasons - an adult writing a parody of those uber ironic kids today.

Dale said...

I love teen pregnancy! Please tell me Nick and Norah ends with her being knocked up! Please?

Red said...

I disagree heartily. I liked N&N, but I really dug Juno. For the record, I don't think having sex with Bleeker was premeditated on her part. I also really appreciate the strength and depth of the cast. Plus? I enjoy the soundtrack. And I don't remember any gross-out stuff in Juno like the vomit and gum stuff in N&N.

PoliticsChick said...

As a constant NetFlixer I gotta say that I really like this blog idea of yours. MOre, more...help me whiddle my list down from 432 to something I can get thru in this lifetime. LOL

 

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