Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The widely praised recent film Juno, which bills itself as an edgy comedy, would be more accurately described as a disturbing psychodrama. The story is ostensibly straightforward: a sixteen-year-old high school student gets pregnant, and decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. The film simply tracks her relationship with her parents, the adopting couple, and the baby's father during her pregnancy.

The problem is that taken at face value, the interactions in the film make no sense. The girl is impossibly self-assured, clinically detached and jaded. She treats the adults around her as equals, if not as inferiors, and the adults, likewise, respond to her as they would a poised, assertive adult--which is what she seems to be, in all respects but her actual age. Moreover, these adults scarcely exist apart from her--their lives seem to revolve around her, as if populating her life were their only purpose. This solipsistic unrealism is quite reminiscent of the film Peggy Sue Got Married, in which a middle-aged woman suddenly wakes up (or perhaps falls into a dream) to find herself back in high school, taking advantage of her knowledge and experience to recognize and correct her youthful mistakes in dealing with various people.

In the latter film, though, the title character eventually reconciles herself to the life she embarked on as a naive youth. Juno, however, hints at a much darker reality: the girl's jaded detachment, as well as several plot elements I'll refrain from revealing, suggest a sexually traumatized twentysomething fantasizing about re-experiencing her vulnerable teen years with the protection afforded by her adult knowledge. And indeed, the film's screenwriter, who goes by the pen-name Diablo Cody, turns out to be (as I suspected while watching the film) a twentysomething woman with what one might describe as sexual "issues"--her major previous work was a diary recounting the aftermath of her decision, on a whim, to give up her secretarial job and become a stripper and peep-show performer.

Granted, I don't know exactly what demons drove Ms. Cody to choose to spend years as a sex-industry worker. But I'd guess that for most audiences, a dramatized depiction of her battle with those demons won't be quite as bracingly comic as Juno's trailer implicitly promises.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A quick you-read-it-here-first observation about the "Super Tuesday" results: Hillary Clinton's primary victories are concentrated largely in "blue" states (those that tend to vote Democratic), while Obama's are concentrated largely in "red" states (those that tend to vote Republican).

Off-the-top-of-my-head explanation: As the establishment candidate, Clinton wins over Democrats in states where being a Democrat means identifying with the establishment. As the insurgent outsider, Obama wins over Democrats in states where being a Democrat means thinking of oneself as a rebel outsider.

Quick prediction: Within a couple of days, this observation will be widely noticed, often talked about, and probed for deep meaning. But you read it here first!