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The Oregonian ^ | January 6, 2008 | David Reinhard

Posted on 01/06/2008 8:22:05 AM PST by jazusamo

I loved "Juno." Every snappy, tender minute of it.

It's a feel-good movie that doesn't sugar-coat reality to guarantee its good feelings. Its characters come complete with failings and develop in fascinating ways. The dialogue is smart and sassy, the acting's top-drawer and the storytelling, compelling. The latter's a real feat, given that "Juno" tells a common tale: a high-school girl's unplanned pregnancy.

What's most welcome is the movie's life-affirming text and subtext. "Juno" isn't another weeper-of-the-week celebrating our abortion culture. Pregnant after sex with a friend and fellow band member, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), the 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. No, she's isn't a pro-life religious fanatic caught in the ways of sin. Her initial response is to have an abortion. Her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) offers to call the clinic for her, as she's done for another friend. Juno, however, needs no help. She's as blase about abortion as the sex that led to her pregnancy. She calls the clinic to "procure a hasty abortion."

But on the way in, Juno encounters a classmate who's protesting there, alone. She's not the news media's usual caricature of pro-life protester. She's warm and caring, nothing like the cold, indifferent receptionist waiting for Juno inside the clinic. As Juno continues into the clinic, the protester calls out, "Your baby has fingernails!"

Her words change everything. They awaken Juno to the humanity of the unborn child she carries.

Juno tells her parents she's pregnant and wants to give the baby to a childless couple. They're not pleased, but they reconcile themselves to her choice. "Someone's going to get a special blessing from Jesus in this garbage dump of a situation," her stepmom says.

Soon stepmom, Leah and Juno are looking at ultrasound images of her child. And weeping with joy.

"Juno" isn't a pro-life message movie or political film. It doesn't preach to the choir or anyone else. It's simply a wise, witty film from an observant screenwriter (Diablo Cody) who's managed to say something true and beautiful about life in our abortion/divorce culture -- the reality of life in the womb and death in an abortion clinic, real-life characters who struggle and grow and do the right thing, a teenage girl's life-affirming but tough decision to give her baby up for adoption. Breakthrough stuff.

Yes, I loved "Juno." But one thing troubled me after the warm feelings washed away: the moral universe of this beautiful movie.

More precisely, the absence of a moral universe.

Oh, the characters generally do the right, life-affirming thing in the end. But I'm not sure they -- or anyone else in "Juno" -- could tell you why. There are no moral or ethical structures to guide them. There's no overarching belief system. The characters are at the mercy of their feelings. Those feelings can prompt you to do the right thing -- not having an abortion, giving your child to a childless couple, not raising a child if you're a teenager -- but they can just as easily lead you in less life-affirming and responsible directions. And those feelings can change moment to moment even if you're not a teenage girl.

An actual belief system provides a sturdier moral foundation, though I'll admit it might not go over big in a hip movie about teenage pregnancy. It might smack too much of morality and, egads, religion.

After a dismissive review of one of her short story collections in The New Yorker, Flannery O'Connor wrote to a friend, "It was a case in which it was easy to see that the moral sense has been bred out of certain sections of the population, like the wings have been bred off certain chickens to produce more white meat on them. This is a generation of wingless chickens, which I suppose is what Nietzsche meant when he said God was dead."

A generation or so later, have the wingless chickens come home to roost? A movie whose main character takes the moral path cannot really explain why.

You've seen those "Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty" bumper stickers. Some get a warm feeling when they see them. It is, however, a sad and desolate phrase. Kindness must be more than random. Beauty must make some sense. They both must have some transcendent meaning. Or we might as well commit random acts of unkindness and senseless acts of ugliness.

For all the charm, uplift and good instincts in this lovely movie, is "Juno" a senseless act of beauty about random acts of kindness?

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: abortion; juno; morals; moviereview; reinhard

1 posted on 01/06/2008 8:22:06 AM PST by jazusamo
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To: jazusamo
Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf's edge and and the beach. Back and forth this person went. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide. The man was stuck by the the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.

As he came up to the person he said, "You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can't possibly make a difference." The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, "It sure made a difference to that one!"
2 posted on 01/06/2008 8:31:17 AM PST by DeLaine (Love me when I least deserve it, because that's when I truly need it.)
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To: jazusamo

It is very interesting that three pro-life (or fairly pro life films) have come from Hollywood recently. I haven’t seen Bella (although I’ve heard wonderful things about it), but Knocked-Up was great (crude but really well-done.) A line such as “Your baby has fingernails...” is quite daring, considering that the approved party line out of Hollywood is “it’s not only a lump of cells, but a choice...”

3 posted on 01/06/2008 8:34:05 AM PST by RepoGirl ("Tom, I'm getting dead from you, but I'm not getting Undead..." -- Frasier Crane)
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To: DeLaine

It most surely did and welcome to Free Republic!

4 posted on 01/06/2008 8:36:14 AM PST by jazusamo (
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To: jazusamo

Really enjoyed Juno. The morals were difficult to discern initially but the portrayal of the abortion clinic rang true. At least for someone who hasn’t been in one but imagines what they are like. The way Juno’s family handled her decisions was very sweet. Great ending, too.

5 posted on 01/06/2008 9:16:38 AM PST by originalbuckeye
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To: jazusamo
The actress who pays Juno is a real up and comer. Bright and with a sense of humor. She made all the men in the audience squirm in Hard Candy. It was her cold sinister style that made that movie what it was, a horror for every man. Now she is doing something totally different. She’s not a starlet sexpot type, but kind of cute and intelligent. This young lady will be around for quite a while.
6 posted on 01/06/2008 9:21:58 AM PST by purpleraine
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To: jazusamo
There are no moral or ethical structures to guide them.

Actually, I'm OK with this. If I have to choose between dealing with kids whose parents have that I'm-ok-you're-ok moral grounding, and true believer liberals who think having an abortion is a rite of passage into adulthood, I'll take the mushy middle-grounders. They're much easier to convert.

Too often, the moral and ethical structures espoused by the adults these kids come in contact with are just wrong.

7 posted on 01/06/2008 10:10:06 AM PST by Mrs_Stokke (The last time we nominated a Senator, we got a Clinton.)
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To: jazusamo
David Reinhard's critique of the movie is well written...

..but his personal opinons/impressions regarding the movie/life resonate!
Spot on!

8 posted on 01/06/2008 10:42:04 AM PST by Guenevere (Duncan Hunter...President '08)
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To: Guenevere

I totally agree!

9 posted on 01/06/2008 10:50:14 AM PST by jazusamo (
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To: RepoGirl

This movie is loved by most critics and is generating a lot of Oscar buzz. I think that’s a good sign.

10 posted on 01/06/2008 10:53:21 AM PST by rintense (Thompson/Hunter 2008!)
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To: jazusamo

My lady and I enjoyed this movie very much. Frankly, if the reason Juno did what she did was because of some imposing moral code derived from an ancient book, it would have turned many people off. The idea that her baby’s humanity was self-evident is a really great message to show to kids steeped in an abortion-seeking culture.

11 posted on 01/06/2008 11:39:13 AM PST by hunter112 (We need to have Hillary win the Rat nomination, it's that important.)
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To: jazusamo
I saw the film and really liked it.

The author of this piece absolutely nailed it, even in the last paragraph's of the article. The kids in the movie are living in a moral vacuum, and probably couldn't tell you with the same clarity, what many of us well understood at the same age, a point I believe the film maker intentionally wanted to impart.

But still Juno makes three very traditional choices: to have the baby, to give it up for adoption (to a seemingly, loving, heterosexual couple) and to pursue a lasting, love relationship. Furthermore, Juno's world doesn't fall apart when she chooses to give birth to the baby and give it up for adoption over abortion. Rather the experience seems to have had an enriching and maturing influence upon her life.

12 posted on 01/06/2008 11:14:20 PM PST by TAdams8591 ((Mitt Romney '08, THE ONLY candidate who can defeat Giuliani and Hillary ))
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To: jazusamo

Well written review. I saw it last night and really liked it too.

Great acting, excellent writing. Saw it with my 20 year old daughter and her friend. My daughter and her friend did not like the character (too close in age to them?, too unrealistic in her dialog, and cultural references), but my daughter enjoyed the movie. My 16 year old son saw it last week, enjoyed it and told me I would like it.

I’m not sure I agree with the criticism about a “moral vacuum.” I think your “morality” as it develops, rests within your heart and my be tempered by your reaction to the opinion of others. If you don’t care about what others think, then it certainly comes from within. As a previous poster said, not from a Book.

The main character’s family was loving (though her parents were divorced and her mother was out of the picture) and there is even a reference to the baby being “gift from Jesus” though there were no other obvious religious overtones. I think the way she dealt with the whole abortion question was pretty spot on.

I’m almost 50 and have been through the unplanned pregnancy thing with several relatives and friends in my hs and college years. Several from “religious” families (Italian Catholic, Irish Catholic, Puerto Rican Catholic, Jewish) made that appointment to “procure a hasty abortion” as soon as they got the news. Remember in my day you had to go to a clinic to get a confirmation of pregnancy, no home tests. Being a part of a church-going family with the trappings of religious “morality” didn’t seem to affect those girls’ decisions. They were too uncomfortable telling their parents they were sexually active to want to deal with pregnancy options.

Also, the abortion clinics of 25-30 years ago were very clinical and sterile. Now days girls are more likely to have an abortion at a doctor’s office where they are in the waiting room with OB/GYN patients who are there for pregnancy checkups, as in the movie. (I had to pass abortion protesters on my way to saturday pre-natal appointments at my doctor’s office). I’m sure that has an effect on the girls going in, as it did in the movie.

For its value in showing a possible outcome of casual (or just hormonal teenage) sex, I think most middle and high school kids should see it.

13 posted on 01/07/2008 6:05:08 AM PST by YankeeGirl
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To: DeLaine; RepoGirl; originalbuckeye; purpleraine; Mrs_Stokke; Guenevere; rintense; hunter112; ...

Thank you all for your posts, many interesting comments were made. This sounds like a movie worth seeing which I seldom admit to saying. :)

14 posted on 01/07/2008 8:22:18 AM PST by jazusamo (
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To: DeLaine

Quite a beach story, but I know a better one.

15 posted on 01/09/2008 5:42:40 PM PST by DeLaine (Lord, help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.)
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To: ergonomic

If you’d allow it, we could LIVE a better one.

16 posted on 01/09/2008 6:26:54 PM PST by DeLaine (When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different)
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To: originalbuckeye
The morals were difficult to discern initially but the portrayal of the abortion clinic rang true.

Yup. Pick a number, sit down and shut up. Hand over the money. It gets worse from there.

Being a woman who "made the choice" years ago, and has had the subsequent blessing of having children, I state unequivocably to anyone reading this who is considering an abortion, do not be deceived, childbirth is still the better option to abortion.

The physical pain of having a baby is once and done. The pain of abortion lasts for a lifetime.

Don't do it!

17 posted on 02/01/2008 7:56:31 AM PST by pray4liberty (Watch and pray.)
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