Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ellen Page in Juno

Ellen Page received her only Oscar nomination so far for playing Juno MacGuff, a really weird pregnant teenager who's giving up her baby for adoption in the Best Picture nominee, Juno. Until the Globes, Ellen Page seemed to be the real dark horse of the race who even had a chance of upsetting Julie Christie on Oscar. However, the Globes turned out to be in favor of the earth-shattering Marion Cotillard and this undoubtedly boosted her chances and jeopardized Ellen's. With hindsight, things turned out much better this way as Page didn't really go on to give better than average performances after her breakthrough in Juno (of course, not everybody has the luck and star power of Jennifer Lawrence, but look how wonderfully Carey Mulligan develops, for instance). 

Ellen Page's nomination can most easily be explained by the insane hype around Juno, which also helped the movie itself receive a really undeserved Best Picture nomination (beating out masterpieces like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days or Gone Baby Gone etc.). With hindsight, all the four nominations seem ridiculous to me. Jason Reitman's direction is nothing to write home about and just don't even get me started on Diablo Cody's  quite simply, terrible screenplay. She has absolutely no idea on how human beings work in real life and what could have been a socially relevant AND extremely humourous movie, turned out to be forced and schmaltzy. Even a high school drama student writes smarter dialogues. Still, I don't blame the Academy for rewarding her with the Oscar. First of all, they must have been taken by the hype (like I was) and they really had no other alternative thanks to the genious "I'm an ex-stripper who wants to make it big in Hollywood" 

However, I must also remember that this review is about the achievements of Ellen Page who plays the title role of Juno. In my humble opinion, Ellen Page is a weak, extremely one-dimensional actress (from what I've seen of course) who always tries to stick to playing her usual weird, but attractive young girl. And no matter how hard she tried, she cannot pull off being a believable femme fatale (like in the otherwise entertaining To Rome with Love) and her lack of true talent becomes painfully obvious when she's among true A-listers (like in Inception). 

Since this very pale actress worked from the incompetent screenplay of Diablo Cody, I expected nothing better than average. However, the result didn't even reach the level of mediocrity and I actually feel like writing a whole list of all the aspects of Ellen's performance that I disliked. She portrays Juno as a real weird girl with a weird family and even weirder observations. There's a scene when Juno talks about her classmates at school and how the cool guys actually go for girls like Juno and somehow the movie Monster came to my mind, when Aileen tells Selby what the guys at the skating rink must go for. From an experienced, 30 + prostitute, it felt authentic, but not from a 16-year-old, not so much. And strangely, these things could have worked if a more talented and humorous actress delivered these with real irony instead of faked and artificial sarcasm. And yes, this actually seemed charming and smart back in 2007 with all the hype around the movie, but with hindsight, I'm amazed that this movie got so far.

In the end, it really is the delivery of Ellen that pisses me off the most (that Mogan Freeman sentence is one of the most annoying ones in movie history). There wasn't a word coming out of her mouth that seemed to come out naturally and genuinely and she says them all in the same way, with the same face and the same tones in her voice. It really gets annoyingly repetitive after a while. And this is where (I think), Jason Reitman came into picture. Obviously, this was a very much directed performance and in my humble opion, Reitman wanted his movie to seem as hip and smart as possible so he forced his actors to talk like nobody in real life does, which wouldn't be a problem if the movie didn't try to also be realistic. This smart ass attitude certainly did wonders with Young Adult, but again, the two stories and main characters are completely different.

These desperate attempts from the filmmakers to make the movie cooler result in the complete lack of development in the characters. I think portraying Juno's attitudes towards pregnancy and motherhood were pivotal to the success of the film and Ellen's performance and yet it almost felt secondary that she was actually pregnant. The terrible, haunting desperation of the girls 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is not what I missed from this movie, it's just some dilemma. Just think about the scene at the abrotion clinic: it was full of great opportunities and yet they were all sacrificed in order to let Ellen Page deliver some cheesy, unbelievable lines. I never actually felt for Juno or cared about her because the movie showed none of her pain or dilemma (she's a PREGNANT TEENAGER, for crying out loud). And since Jennifer Garner was able to pull off the only decent performance of the movie (a really great one, actually), the lack of greatness from Ellen becomes even more apparent and annoying. One honest moment comes finally, when Juno cries in the car, which might seem out of place, but I think it's only because it really stands out of the movie.

The scenes of the childbirth are also surprisingly better than the rest of the film. While I don't know if it was just the emotionality of the situation or something beyond that, I started to feel for the characters (only to instantly leave it behind this when the cheesy ending with the singing came). Even the horrible Michael Cera - Ellen Page couple seemed to be working for a couple of minutes (despite the fact that they annoyed the hell out of me in the rest of the film).

All in all, I don't really know what to make out of Ellen Page's extremely weak performance. Although the character is incredibly annoying and as fake as possible, I really think that it's more due to Diablo Cody's  incompetent screenplay and Jason Reitman's forced direction. Ellen Page's only fault is that she's just not talented enough to make this character realistic and human. So after all, for me this work is nothing more than a failed effort.

What do you think? I'm BACK!!!! :)))) Did you miss me? 


mrripley said...

Thank goodness someone who agrees with me,the "thundercate are go" line is the one i hate and i agree with absolutely all you see,the screenplay is the worst culprit but page makes no attemp to get us the believe this is a real person,alison janney can't even make the scene witht he scan work,a terrible performance and one that i really have issue with in 2007 even more than cate b.

joe burns said...

Well, I agree the movie is a bit tired since it's 2007 buzz, but I still think it's entertaining. Maybe not a masterpiece, but still.. I also think it's unfair to compare it to 4 Weeks, 3 days because it is a comedy after all. You don't expect the pregnancy to be taken that seriously. But to each his own!!!

She'll be 5th for sure!!! Who's your B.P pick for this year??

dinasztie said...

Well, out of the nominees, it's NCFOM, from the year it's 4 Months... , but NCFOM is close.

Violet said...

I love your blog!
Are you going to write about best supporting actress reviews after the best actress reviews?

Anonymous said...

Wow, you really hated her! I also think the film is really underwhelming and it fails terribly in almost everything it attempts, she's fifth for me, I don't think she was awful but I wouldn't have given her a nomination. What did you think of her performance in "Hard Candy" she surprised me there showing some actual depth!

dinasztie said...

Anon: I haven't seen Hard Candy. :/ Maybe I should but Ellen Page never really impresses me. I might give it a try.

Violet: Thanks a lot! :) I'm not sure. First I'll have to finish the Best Actress reviews. :) After that, I want to go on to make my blog more universal, also the Emmys and movies in general. :) I might review supp actress years, but it won't be a series like this one.

Louis Morgan said...

Glad to see you back! I must agree with your assessment of the film and her performance. I think if Page had more performances that had been widely seen at that point, she might not have been nominated at all.

I think it probably was a case of people being taken by the performance of someone who only really does that one thing, before everyone knew she only really does that one thing.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to see "The Tracey Fragments" and "Hard Candy" Ellen Page is very talented.

JC said...

You're back! :)))

I happen to love Page here, and I really appreciate Juno as a film. Love the screenplay (sorry, haters!) :))

Billy Kramer fan said...

Yes, I missed you. I love you and this blog. And I love the oscars. I hope you keep on posting more. And I also hope that Anne Hathaway is going to win the oscar this year!

It's really great that you are writing this blog

Greetings from all the way from Finland!

Sebbers said...

I HATE this performance and film. It's nothing but pretentious garbage and people try to make it so much more than it really is. The only positive thing about the entire film is Jennifer Garner's performance which I think should have gotten a nomination. She was able to pull out a heartfelt, and sometimes heartbreaking, performance. Page was just annoying and fake.

dinasztie said...

Sebbers: I agree with every word you said.

Anonymous said...

I disagree wholeheartedly, but that make sense, since this is a performance that you will only enjoy if you enjoyed the film.