Previously, on the Shameless blog: Judd Apatow’s keeping mum on abortion. At the time I wrote that post, Juno hadn’t yet arrived in theatres, though if you were lucky you could’ve caught it at the Toronto International Film Festival or at one of many test screenings across North America. Since then the movie has raked in decent box office and a whole lot of accolades; Roger Ebert named Juno his favourite movie of 2007, and whether or not you agree with Ebert’s reviews, it’s a pretty hefty bit of praise.
Now that I’ve seen the movie twice (including just now, which is my excuse for why this Film Friday’s going up on Saturday), it seems like a good time to come back to Juno and see how it measures up. Let’s get that abortion issue out of the way first, since I brought it up so many months ago: Juno is not a movie about abortion, and whether you appreciate the movie’s treatment of abortion as a possible choice for a pregnant teenaged girl will probably depend on whether you want it to be a movie about abortion or if you’re willing to let Juno stand on its own merits.
(Quick note: the post is spoiler-free, but the comments aren’t!)
Contrary to Knocked Up‘s two-minute dismissal of The Medical Procedure That Shall Remain Nameless, Diablo Cody’s script gives the issue of abortion its share of airtime. And though, in the end, our heroine Juno McGuff (played by Ellen Page) decides to keep her baby (not really a spoiler), I never got the sense that she would’ve been criticized if she decided otherwise, or that she was coerced into keeping her child. Instead, Juno makes the choice on her own terms, which in the end is the whole idea of being pro-choice, I think: the ability to make your own decisions on whether to have an abortion or bring your child to term. The fact that a teenager is allowed to come to a decision by herself, without a whole lot of heavy moralizing from a bunch of adults, actually strikes me as somewhat refreshing.
Something else that’s refreshing is how Juno treats the concept of family. As she winds through the various stages of pregnancy, Juno takes another journey of discovery: what makes for a good family? At the start of the film, Juno and her friend Leah look through the classifieds to find the right barren couple upon which to unload the infant, and behind Juno’s snark lies some very particular ideas about who’s deserving of her baby. Already has kids? Nope. “Spiritually wealthy”? Nada. When she comes upon the picture of Mark and Vanessa Loring—a picture-perfect, young professional couple that ticks all the right checkboxes, Juno thinks she’s found gold. Without going into the juicy details, the rest of the film is devoted to tearing down the idea of the “picture-perfect” baby-rearing couple, and eventually concludes that true family comes down to who you love and who loves you. It’s an awfully traditional and—dare I say it?—Hollywood premise, but strangely it worked for me.
In the end, Juno doesn’t really go into great detail about abortion as a viable option, but I’m actually quite okay with that. Stacey May pointed to Viva La Feminista’s post that poses the question of whether abortion belongs in a love story, and I think the world could use some more comedies where the woman gets an abortion. But in the meantime, I’m perfectly willing to let Juno be Juno, and appreciate the film for its many merits.