Movie Review: Juno (2007)
Starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera
I’d heard a lot about this movie before watching it. It was apparantly a big hit among pro-lifers. Dealing with the theme of teen pregnancy, this movie is pretty topical. Well, as topical as a movie about teen pregnancy can be – there’s been pregnant teens ever since there were teenage girls… In what light does this movie show this theme and is it the uplifting cautionary tale that I’ve heard it is meant to be?
Ellen Page plays Juno, a quirky teenage girl. After a sexual encounter with her friend Bleeker (Michael Cera), Juno becomes pregnant. After rejecting the option of abortion, she decides to adopt her baby out to a young yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). What follows is six months in the life of a pregnant teen.
This movie is a comedy. You can tell because of the witty banter and the fact that (almost) everyone gets a happy ending. However, what’s not funny is the treatment of teenage pregnancy. I get the feeling I’m meant to be jumping for joy and punching the air that this girl decided not to have an abortion and bring the baby to term. I would be happier if there was a real reason why she decided against it. Other than “it felt wrong”. There’s an undercurrent in the film that Juno decided to remain pregnant, not because of a pro-life decision but because she’s at heart an attention seeker. She’s the weird kid at school. She dresses differently, listens to different music and acts differently. She’s an attention seeker. She appears to be angry at people staring at her, but she does nothing to stop them. As an attention seeker myself, I know a kindred spirit.
Juno is meant to be the “cautionary whale”. She’s meant to say to kids “hey, don’t get pregnant!” But you know what? There’s absolutely nothing negative shown in this movie about teen pregnancy. There is very little indication that she is going through anything physically painful or that her health is AWOL (there’s one scene where they kind of mention it, but it’s short). We are told that she’s become a social pariah at school, but the depiction of this is token at best. Her dad and step mother are completely supportive from the very start. All of her decisions about what happens to the baby are seemingly made in minutes. What we do see is a cute, funny girl with an adorable pregnant belly. She isn’t a cautionary tale – she’s the poster child for teen pregnancy.
I’ve been thinking recently about the difference between naive and innocent. A lot of people think that kids should be sheltered from all the bad things in the world. That topics such as sex should be shielded from them. Instead of growing up innocent, they end up naive. Naive is when you don’t know what’s out there, you don’t know to expect it or how to deal with it. Naive people end up unable to deal with situations and crashing and burning. Innocent people know what’s out there out choose not to be part of it. They know what to expect and when it comes knocking, they know how to deal with it. As Christians, we need to do more than just tell our young people “don’t have sex”. We need to explain to them, from a Biblical perspective why they should wait until marriage. We need to show them how sex outside of marriage can lead to all kinds of consequences both physical and emotional. We need to help them develop the skills to resist temptation, not just sweep the whole thing under the floor. Juno is a movie about a naive girl. She’s not innocent. Juno got pregnant because she willingly took part in unprotected sex.
Juno is a movie filled with broken people in broken relationships. They are looking for something to fulfil them. Bringing a baby into the world was clearly not the answer. It didn’t solve the relationship problems faced by Mark and Vanessa, the yuppi couple. It may have brought Juno and Bleeker closer, but at what cost? There needs to be a point to life. As a Christian, I believe that God is that point. That he is the creator of all things and that he loves us. We know love and are able to express love because of the love he has shown to us (1 John 4:19). I await the day where there will be no more broken relationships. When all of God’s people will be gathered together in heaven. That’ll be the day.
I like the witty banter in Juno. And the actors all put in a top effort. Unfortunately, the plot, themes and message of the movie were major negatives for me. I enjoyed watching Juno, but ultimately, it’s nothing special.