Friday, July 25, 2008

All babies want to get borned

Finally got around to seeing Juno. And it's good. Compelling central performance; snappy script, packed with the sort of one-liners that were just born to be the titles of blog posts; and a cracking soundtrack. (Kimya Dawson, Belle & Seb and the Velvets? With this wry indie-folk you are spoiling us!)

And yet (or maybe because of this) it feels ever so slightly hollow. Yeah, it's edgy, if we mean by that that it doesn't spoonfeed the audience, and runs the risk of annoying some of them: pro-choice and pro-life groups alike have attacked it, which I'm sure cost the producers no sleep whatsoever. But it feels like indie-cinema-by-focus-group; it's a Fox Searchlight product (see Little Miss Sunshine, Napoleon Dynamite, Sideways and their ilk) which aims to bring more left-field films to mainstream audiences, but in doing so redefines the precise location of left field. As was the case with 'indie music' after the global success of Nirvana and Radiohead, the critical goalposts aren't so much moved as chopped down for firewood. Which was lovely for a while, but led to all those skinny-trewed 'The' bands playing third on the bill at a festival near you this summer: what Tim Walker identifies as "landfill indie".

A purist argument would be, of course, that there are good films and bad films (records, books, etc) and the removal of any genre distinction is a good thing. Although, for someone to make the decision that this is a Fox Searchlight product, there must still be a mainstream for Juno to be outside. Even if only slightly outside, looking in, chucking out one-liners to a backing track of wry indie-folk.


amyonymous said...

"it feels like indie-cinema-by-focus-group"

yeah, that about describes it. still, i loved the movie so i guess i'm a perfect indie-cinema customer. what i particularly enjoyed was listening to my high school students rave about the movie, the music, Ellen and Michael. their enjoyment, for me, overrode the feeling that it was too cleverly put together.

patroclus said...

I liked it a lot, even though the dialogue seemed a bit contrived (a bit *too* cool) at times. Also I sobbed uncontrollably from about the halfway point all the way to the end, but we can probably put that down to hormones. There's lots to love about it - Michael Cera *and* Jason Bateman in one film, the fact that it was written by a laydee and said laydee won the screenwriting Oscar (when does that ever happen?), etc.

I wasn't too bothered about the soundtrack, though, strangely. I don't think anything can make me love the Moldy Peaches - see also Garden State and the Shins.

Billy said...

The Moldy Peaches are never as good as they sounded in my head before I heard them. Still like them though.

Rosie said...

i liked it, apart from all the bits where i wanted to punch her for being so annoying.

probably more me than her, if i'm honest.

Annie said...

I loved the soundtrack and am grateful because I'm one of those uncool people who only heard the Moldy Peaches here for the first time. Real fans hate people like me.

What would you say is an example of a real indie left-field film then?

Geoff said...

I don't understand modern indie cinema. I did like Sideways probably because the actors weren't young.

FirstNations said...

PERFECT. EXACTLY. the 'Quentin Tarantino' school. 'doing' the edge is not being the edge.

one look at the trailers for this film had my teeth itching for a week. Tim, this is why i love you so.

Tim Footman said...

Amy/Patroclus: Yeah, I could forgive the contrivances because it wasn't too cynical, and it did make me laugh on several occasions.

Billy: I like her, not so sure about him. Similar to the White Stripes, I s'pose.

Rosie: But that was what worked - if she'd been too *nice* it would have been unbearable.

Good point, Annie. Something shot on video, probably. That never gets a proper release.

I loved Sideways, Geoff. Paul Giamatti is a deity.

FN: QT is the victim of his own success - we expect each new film to redefine the margins between arthouse and mainstream, pop and classic. And those who came up in his slipstream have overtaken him.