I saw Juno with a friend for her birthday. I admit I wasn’t very excited about it for some of the same reasons many people have explained far better than I on many other blogs — popular culture generally does a crappy job of capturing any part of the adoption experience (on all sides) and doing that in comedy form usually ends up being highly offensive and making me pissy for days. And I have enough reasons to be pissy without doing anything self-inflicted.
But my very close friend Pi wanted to go and I figured I should get off my butt and go. I’m one of those people who always tells other people not to judge a book before reading it, not to condemn an argument before hearing it, etc. so not seeing a film because I assume it sucks doesn’t seem right.
So I saw it.
And I was pleasantly surprised.
Now, that certainly isn’t to say that it was perfect. It absolutely skirted over some major issues and underplayed others, but it also at least tried to present some of the issues and feelings that most things never even acknowledge exist. It understood and showed that adoption isn’t always happy skippy puppy dogs and sparkles — for anyone involved. Their can be pain and sorrow and frustrations and anxieties. There can be stereotyping and manipulation and unpredictability. And there can be — and usually are — tears.
And there can be laughter. While the film is being touted as a comedy, and it certainly does have funny parts, I don’t think the marketers are being fair to the film’s depth. As a result, some potential viewers are being lost because all they see of the film are the snippets of sarcastic humor that Juno wields (which are very well written, generally, and extremely well delivered by Ellen Page). It is much more than some laugh-a-minute farce. Does it put forward some stereotypes? Absolutely (see, for example, Juno’s description of adoption from China). But, for the most part, when stereotypes are presented, they are critiqued and indicted not proven to be true (as in so many other films).
And while the beginning may make people think the film will be making light of the entire experience, it doesn’t. It faces the messiness fairly head on and shows that there are, in fact, humans involved in the entire process.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find a birth/first mother who has seen the film and can share their view on it. I’ve searched in many places, but find only people who assume (as I did) that it would be yet another absurd representation of adoption. I would love to hear from someone who has seen it and is willing to share their views!
This isn’t to say that all of this is caught by everyone who watches the film. As it was nearing an end, a couple of older women sitting behind Pi and I said to each other “That was cute.” Cute? Seriously? Were they watching the same freakin’ film? Cute is for those same darn happy skippy puppies not for a film that, to at least a better degree than most, wrestles with the complex and fairly messy thing that is adoption.
As Pi and I left the theater and talked about what we liked of the film, she said “Cute just isn’t right.” One of the many reasons I love her so…