Adoption

Juno (Spoilers, no doubt)

I tend to protect myself from movies I believe will upset me. If it’s about an animal likely to die, for instance, I don’t go to see it. (And believe me about this, too: if something bad happens to an animal in a movie, that *is* what the movie is about for me.) If I know it will be violent, I’m not going. There are very few exceptions (I really like Denzel Washington, for instance, and he is in a lot of violent movies, so I’ve seen some of his, but due to my propensity for picking up his colorful expressions in those movies, even jokingly, my husband has banned going to Denzel’s movies in the theatre. Naturally he can’t do much about my Netflix list when he is out of town. (I really hope this reads as funny, because it is.))

Anyway, and if you think I’m on some level avoiding writing about the movie I actually saw yesterday you may be onto something, I went to see Juno yesterday, which was a bold move, because I do not like to watch movies about adoption.

Let me sum up first, then describe later. I will never hear "Sea of Love" the same way again. The sequence in which it is played (this is a spoiler, so look away and if you don’t, you clearly aren’t paying attention to me now or to the title of this post, so that’s no longer my problem) begins with Juno in her hospital bed, her erstwhile boyfriend spooning with her, with a voiceover about how neither of them wanted to see the baby because he didn’t feel like theirs, with a transition to a bunch of babies lying in their little Lucite bassinets? That killed me. I was already tearful, but that killed me. I began to sob, noisily. Good chance it was embarrassing for my daughter, but since she talked me into going to the movie all of a sudden without proper prep time, she may have brought it on herself.

Also, thanks so much, scriptwriter, for giving the baby a due date that is my birthday. Just sayin’.

On a more sane note, here is what The Princess said about it. "It’s a movie about how things happen to people and you shouldn’t judge them just because of those things. It’s a movie about accepting people for who they are."

She told me that ahead of time. And I agree, it’s pretty much about that, when it isn’t about ripping Songbird’s heart out of her chest and stirring up all her abandonment issues.

And because that is what it’s about, it’s really a movie about a girl who sticks out (figuratively, although of course literally, eventually, too), and the way she becomes more individuated, and the relationships that matter to her along the way.

It’s not much of a movie about adoption. Adoption is a plot device, just as the pregnancy is. Both raise the stakes for the heroine in her journey to know who she is and who she loves.

As her father says:

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you
for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome,
what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out
your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.

Much as I love that line, I have a lot of problems with the script, aside from the adoption stuff, about which my friend Lisa V wrote eloquently, and so I’ll let her say it for me, because that’s the part I’m having a hard time focusing on, so go here and see. Well, go anyway, but let me just add this. I am so used to thinking of my conception as a mistake that the whole mythology of mistakes and deserving adoptive parents is woven into my guts. In my sane mind, I know there is more to it, but in my belly, I’m right there with this whole concept and just want some parent, somewhere, to want and love me.

Ugh, that hurt and sounded way unevolved. That’s how deep this goes.

Back to the script:

 

First, do you know teenagers who talk that way? All the time? Maybe I am sheltered, or spoiled by children who have absorbed all the Highbrow Family Values around here.

Second, as a person who is pro-choice, I was really disappointed in the portrayal of the women’s health clinic. I mean, maybe I am just under the influence of living in a liberal haven of women’s health care, but boysenberry you-know-whats?

Third, this is not about the script, but about the acting that overcame it. J.K. Simmons and Alison Janney are way too big for this little movie, but I loved them anyway. I loved how they talked to Juno and to each other. Don’t get me started about how unrealistic it was for the dad to go and visit the potential adoptive parents and be so blithe about the whole thing. On a related note, I adore Jennifer Garner in this part.

Fourth, the few non-emotional moments of film enjoyment for me were provided by Jason Bateman in that blue sweater. Then he turned skeevy, and that was disappointing.

Fifth, the one thing I did like in the script was the father grasping for the right word to describe how wrong it would be for Juno to date while pregnant.

Sixth, Ellen Page and Michael Cera were wonderful.

And seventh and last, I loved the music. I sort of want to hear it all again, but I don’t want to cry like that anytime soon.

Your comments welcome.

21 thoughts on “Juno (Spoilers, no doubt)”

  1. I’m really sorry it was so painful for you. I agree with so much you have said.
    And no, none of my teenagers talk that way. Nor the whole school full of children I’m with every day.
    Never for one minute believe that you were in anyway a mistake. You were and are loved by so many people. The world would be incomplete without you.

  2. Golly, Songbird, I don’t know how it could have been anything *but* painful for you. And I don’t think you sound unevolved in the least; if anything, you make the scriptwriters look rather callous.
    I’ve been having a hard time articulating my feelings about Juno, and I guess the only way that I can sum them up is if I try to look at it only internally, and don’t treat it at all as an accurate picture (in any way) of society today. But as soon as people start to talk about how it’s a great movie for today’s teenagers, I get really uncomfortable, largely for reasons you’ve outlined here.
    And oh, what Lisa V said. My world is a richer place for the bloggy window I have into yours.

  3. You are one of the great treasures in my life. Really. No mistakes. No way, no how.
    I haven’t seen this yet, but am going this weekend while DH is out of town (this would not be his type of movie.) Thanks for the preview. I don’t mind spoilers.

  4. Whew… it’s sort of how I felt when I went to see “I Am Sam” and “The Other Sister.” Some things just cut too close for comfort. Even though our rational minds know differently, there it is. I am singing along here with everyone else. I can’t imagine the world being so beautiful were you not here with your beauty and wisdom Songbird. You are loved more than you will ever know and you are never, even alone.

  5. I want to see this movie, but don’t know if i can get my husband to go with me. so I didn’t want to read too closely. but will comment more.

  6. Songbird, I am an adoptee, and for some reason, this movie did not hit me in that place so much as it did in the place of “what if” with respect to my own 15 year old daughter. I loved the film, the dialogue, the performances.
    Maybe the adoption aspect didn’t resonate so strongly for me because I have heard my birth mother’s side of the story, and have a strong sense of her heartbreak and how hard it was for her to give up a baby (me). I don’t know. That’s not to say I don’t have abandonment issues… I sure do, in spades. But, for some reason, this movie just didn’t hit me in that place.
    You are a treasure, as all other commentators have pointed out. God danced the day you were born, that is for sure.

  7. I am really good at compartmentalizing. I saw none of myself or my personal history in this movie. In fact, it never occurred to me that I might see those things until I read this.
    That sounds really evolved, maybe, but trust me–I’m not that evolved. I compartmentalize.
    It never occurred to me that the young girl who birthed me had great, involved parents, or was cute, or smart, or funny, or thoughtful. Or that the woman who adopted me was flawed and luminous, earnest and tortured.
    In fact the only part of the movie that seemed even a smidge like somebody’s real life was the way the teenagers talked. I do know two who talk like that a great deal of the the time, if not 24/7. I raised them.
    You and me? Never mistakes. Not even on our worst days. Never. (((((SB)))))

  8. I don’t think I will see it at the theater. Maybe once it is on dvd and I can sob as loudly as I want in my living room. Thanks for the review.

  9. I’m with Alex on this one – maybe on DVD. From everything I’ve read, I would be a basketcase in the theater on this one. (By the way – I’m with you 100% on the animals in movies thing. And don’t go see I Am Legend.)
    You do not sound unevolved. To me, unevolved means reactive with no true understanding as to why. You know the heart of your pain. You have dealth with it for years and continue to do so. Some of your questions and issues may never be fully resolved in this lifetime, but it sounds like you are doing the best you can to come to terms with parts of your life that were totally out of your control.
    You are not and never have been a mistake! You have touched many lives – and we love you!
    And thank you for trusting us with your story.

  10. songbird, i’m sorry the movie hit so close to home. you are such a wonderful, courageous, caring person!
    i liked the movie, but am still turning over some of the issues in my mind. like you, i was disappointed in the health clinic. and omg, picking prospective parents out of the penny saver — to me, that perfectly illustrated the paradox of this young woman at 16: she’s figured out her goal, is trying to do the right thing, is using the resources available to her in a reasonably methodical way, but is so achingly naive.
    juno’s quiet strength, honesty, sense of responsibility, and humor struck me as wonderful. she is not burdened much by that curse of high school, not fitting in; i like how she embraces her own self. but she is so clearly a work in progress. the passive-aggressive thing with the slurpee was classic.
    i loved her parents. such a contrast to the boyfriend’s smothering, judgmental mother.
    there were so many places where juno made choices that i disagreed with; but they were deliberate choices, and she accepted the consequences. what i ended up greatly admiring was how, once she decided to carry the baby, she was dedicated to making sure [as best she could] that it was healthy and would be raised in a good, loving home. that was her great act of unselfish love.

  11. I took myself to see this movie – alone – as part of my sabbath yesterday. i cried, sitting amongst 8 or 9 other people scattered throughout the midday showing. it really resonated, for so many reasons. i am sorry that your heart hurt so…
    isn’t it often a good and powerful thing that artists create things that speak to us, and sometimes dredge up that within us which we haven’t quite sorted through? we can see it through somebody else’s eyes and our paradigm shifts and God, in his infinite wisdom, shows us something new about ourself, our hurt, our joy, our sorrow, our deepest wounds. and then grace steps in and does its healing work, through hugs and well-placed words, conversation and the spirit.
    i thought the whole film was laced with a cynicism that befits the attitudes of my kids and their peers. they are just as raw and honest about the agenda of a pro-choice clinic as they are about a judgemental bigot; it’s all the same to them, i think. what matters is individual hearts and minds and choice and friends. truth, for them, is found in something like what juno discovered in paulie, as she recognized his steadiness and his goodness.
    i could go on and probably need to – on my own blog – but i want to affirm your pain and say that you do matter, so much, and i agree with preacher mom that your evolution is right on the money. you do the best you can with what you’ve got, and ask for more as you can handle it…
    much love ((((((((songbird)))))))

  12. Haven’t seen the movie yet. I don’t get out much.
    You, cheesehead, and anyone else adopted – mistakes? No way. Blessings? Absolutely.
    ((((SB))))

  13. LD saw the movie last week. She said we needed to go see it together. I don’t know what she meant but will ask her. Grace said something very similar to the Princess’ comment. Was that in the movie?
    I’m so picky about movies, I’ll have to MAKE myself go to this one.
    Can’t stand people hurting each other or animals being hurt. That knocks out most movies for me.
    We are all devoted to you, Songbird. I hope you hear that.

  14. I suggested to my daughter that we go see it together and she said “I don’t like pregnant teenager movies”.
    I resonated with Jennifer Garner and Juno….I am Jennifer Garner (but with a great husband) and I know in my deepest soul the pain that the birth mothers of my children experienced.
    And yes, unfortunately, you are sheltered by living in an area of “liberal haven of women’s health care”….I have hidden in my desk drawer the number of the one gyn in a 250 mile radius who will do that procedure.

  15. I really appreciate you found the strength to write this review because while I adored the movie, I do not have a history like yours at all – so reading about the movie through your perceptions is very instructive.
    Any film about pregnancy and particularly a pregnant teenage girl is going to come loaded with pre-conceived notions and some expectations of how the film might proceed or end. I personally appreciated the way the film doesn’t judge the characters – but lets them be who they are. I think it would have been all too easy to demonise Jennifer Garner’s character for being uptight (when Jason Bateman was the cool arty one) or later to demonise his character for having doubts (and being skeevy). It let’s you make up your own mind about them.
    Yes, no teenagers talk like that all the time, but there’s a level of artiface I don’t mind for a movie like this. Overall I didn’t think there was too much of quirky for quirky’s sake – there were real emotions and strong motives for all the characters.
    And I don’t think the choice was necessarily easy for Juno, even if she appeared never to waver. But certainly the adoptive father getting cold feet and Juno being unable to relate directly to the adoptive mother was an interesting conflict – which again avoided the adoption movie cliches, which can be much more melodramatic.
    I can’t know what it’s like to watch the film as someone who was adopted out by their birth parents, obviously. I want to defend the film because I personally found it beautiful and touching. (And to your specific concern about the women’s health clinic – again, you need to build in a reason for Juno not to have an abortion or else you have no film. Like last year’s Knocked Up. I think it’s reasonable to expect that even a cool, calm, smart girl like Juno would be easily freaked out in that situation – as unrealistic as the depiction might be.)
    So while I saw some cliche avoidance, you saw some adoption myths reinforced. See, without you, I would never have been able to appreciate this perspective. Thanks so much for writing this review. I wish you’d been able to enjoy the film more.

  16. I love you, Songbird, and my world would be immeasurably poorer without you in it.
    That’s really all I can say.
    Oh, and hugs of course xxxxxx

  17. I saw the movie awhile ago and even though I basically agree with everything you said in this post, I still essentially liked the movie. I thought it was unrealistic on all sorts of levels, but still smart and funny. I agree that adoption and pregnancy are pretty much just plot devices in the movie, which is why I was able to overlook all the ways in which they were presented oddly and just view this film as another exploration of adolescence. That said, oddly, the film did remind me of a number of moments when my wife was pregnant with my older daughter, which I find kind of astounding because the movie was so unrealistic and I just don’t quite get why it still provoked such personal responses in me along those lines.

  18. I didn’t care for Juno either, but couldn’t articulate why. Thought it was just another example of my tastes being opposite of the majority of the world.
    Thanks for this great post!

  19. I took my 15 year old adopted daughter…and we left after about 15 minutes. I am totally at a loss.
    I think it was Juno’s cavillier attitude about being pregnant, going to have an adoption (we are glad she choose not to abort), her non-emotional way of making decisions. Now…I want to see it, so I will go with a friend, but my daughter is so upset. She won’t even talk about it.
    Anyone else experience this with their adopted child? stacybk@hotmail.com

  20. I took my 15 year old adopted daughter…and we left after about 15 minutes. I am totally at a loss.
    I think it was Juno’s cavillier attitude about being pregnant, going to have an adoption (we are glad she choose not to abort), her non-emotional way of making decisions. Now…I want to see it, so I will go with a friend, but my daughter is so upset. She won’t even talk about it.
    Anyone else experience this with their adopted child? stacybk@hotmail.com

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