'Juno'

A nominee for Best Spiritual Film in the 2008 Beliefnet Film Awards

 

Amazing Grace
Atonement
Away From Her
Juno
The Kite Runner

While critics and pundits have made much of the fact that a slew of movies this year have had a seemingly pro-life bent ("Waitress," "Bella," "Knocked Up"), I think it is a disservice to lump the quirky comedy "Juno" into that category (not to mention that I don't know that I would truly classify all of those films as pro-life in intent). I believe the sleeper hit "Juno," for all of its sarcastic one liners, is about much more than a teen pregnancy. Yes, "Juno" is an inspirational movie because of its delicate treatment of a serious life decision, but it is my pick for the most inspirational movie of the year because of the clever but gentle way it gives voice to the other moral questions that plague an entire generation.

In fact, the central moment of the film for me is not the scene at the abortion clinic in which the thought of her unborn child having fingernails helps convince Juno to flee the clinic. One of the most poignant moments for me in this movie is when Juno, after hearing some unexpected news, tells her father "I need to know that two people can stay together forever." That is the key question for Juno that I believe drove her to try to grow up too quickly in the first place--and, I feel, it is the burning question for so many millenials who've grown up with single-parent and no-parent homes in circumstances far more dire than Juno's.

The fact that Juno finds the courage to rise above her circumstances with the love and support of her blended family makes this movie something of a modern day fairytale and makes this character a well-deserved poster child for a disaffected generation desperately desiring connection, inspiration, and hope in a chaotic world.
-- Kris Rasmussen

I realize I may be swimming upstream with a vote against "Juno", but salmon do it successfully, so at least I've got nature on my side.

There was much to like in this quirky indie film about teen pregnancy: Ellen Page did a great job with the character, so much so that I wasn't sure where the actress ended and her funny, acerbic, twerpy character began. Somehow, she even managed to make pregnancy look fun.

However, there are several reasons why I can't vote for "Juno" in any best film category:

1) The dialogue is simply too self-conscious. I can give Diablo Cody, the screenwriter and former Minnesota stripper, great latitude because I'm a fan of the Aaron Sorkin School of ratta-tat-tat repartee, but the dialogue in "Juno" pulled me out of the film over and over again. Instead of watching people I could emotionally invest in up on the screen, I felt like I was watching the pages of the script flip past like I'd fallen into some sort of screenwriting boot camp gulag. My ears heard only writer's ego or nascent talent--original, but not believable.

2) I can't put my finger on anything very spiritual about this movie. The themes of love, maturity, and seeing with new eyes what's been there all along are given a new spin, but neither Juno's nor anyone else's character arc give these issues any gravitas. I didn't walk away with any ethical, spiritual, or religious insights--nor did I see the characters transform much from the first frame to the last.

In a "Juno"-esque wrap-up, I give cheeseburger phone props to Ellen Page, Jason Bateman, and J.K. Simmons for their rad roles, but I give the Katrina De Voort stink-eye to the under-used Michael Cera and Allison Janney and to the script's self-conscious convo kitsch. Fun flick, but no spiritual Spartan.
---- Todd Havens

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