Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Juno

Years ago, I wrote a horrible short story about a guy whose desperate desire to be an artist is paralyzed by his self-consciousness and normality. The first scene was at a place like the old Loring Café. The main character watches this sensual, exotic woman play guitar and sing. He is Salieri to her Mozart, and there's nothing he can do about it.

I've always known that the main character is (painfully obviously) the author. But over the last year, I've come to realize that the woman playing the guitar is Diablo Cody. Diablo and I both write screenplays. We both came to Minnesota from Midwestern states that begin with "I." But I while I played saxophone in the high school marching band and didn't kiss a girl until I was 15, Diablo Cody, in addition to being a fabulous writer, was a former stripper.

I'm thinking about this because Anne and I went to see "Juno" yesterday with a mixture of expectations and pre-conceived notions. On one level, I just wanted to see a good movie, and if the New Yorker likes something (which they do about once a year), I have to see it. On another level, I wanted to kill its buzz. I wanted to hate it.

The verdict: I liked "Juno" right away, then I didn't, then I really did. I couldn't help it.

The ultra-smart, sarcastic, ironic, jaded-yet-still-innocent main character is a standout creation. One could argue that she's a carbon copy of the girl in "Ghost World," but she owns something unique even within that micro-thin indie character paradigm.

Then about 40 minutes in, I remember thinking, "Okay, witty banter will only get you so far. The writer is in love with her dialogue, the character is becoming tiresome, and the movie is in danger of becoming a 90-minute standup routine by a 16-year-old." This was my chance to scream "overrated!" and feel good about myself.

And then Diablo Cody foiled me again.

The movie and the characters took some interesting turns, and by the end, I realized that I had witnessed one of the most totally-unlikely-yet-somehow-believable love stories I had ever seen. All the attention will go to the dialogue. It should go to the characters. I don't remember any screenwriter so deftly making me like one character and hate another, and then completely reversing my opinion about those same characters—secondary characters, mind you—just an hour later. Damn, that's good.

Yesterday was a great day. I took a day off of work. I sat in my favorite theater, with my favorite person on her birthday. I watched a great movie with stale popcorn and a Coke. It would have been better if the people around me were laughing and crying at something I wrote, but it was good just the same.

Awfully, awfully good.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everybody must be out Christmas shopping.

Great blog, Marc.

JUNO is on my "must see" list. From all that I've read about Ms. Cody, I think she has a healthy career ahead of her.

DK

Mike said...

It's funny, but I just read a production draft of the script last night and I was lukewarm -- I mean, all the one-liners were there, but I suspect the real weight of its success was in the performances and Reitman's direction. Think I'll catch it this weekend. Nice post, Conk.

Marc Conklin said...

The key for me was that it did get to me on the ol' "emotional level." Not so much for Anne, though.

Vegas Gopher said...

I've been a Diablo fan since her Pussy Ranch days and can't wait to sing Juno's praises here in Vegas, assuming the movie actually comes here. We're desperately short on art house theaters, so unless an indie flick is part of the annual CineVegas film festival in June, we're pretty much screwed. But hey, I can see Barry Manilow damn near any night of the week, so I've got that going for me.

Which is nice.