With some precious time to spare, I got the opportunity to analyze the lauded film Juno, or rather its screenplay, written by the infamous (or whatever) Diabolo Cody. The film itself is narrated and acted out by the most perfect cast, as well as being the result of very impressive directing. Studying the Juno screenplay reveals the actors’ and director’s work had an exceptionally crafted blueprint as foundation for their work. The reading of it reveals its carefully crafted themes, plots, acts, scenes, and characters. In my mind, this story is a perfect example of a perfect comic tragedy.
In most of Hollywood’s past and present films, the “boy meets girl…”-storyline is required whether it is the film’s main or complementary plot. In Juno, this storyline is central, but not the screenplay’s main story (although Juno and Beeker losing their virginity obviously is the starting point for the story’s main plot). This plot serves rather the purpose of realizing the characters Juno and Beeker, in terms of their personalities, psychology and social difference in term of life-opportunities – especially in terms of taking on the world and in what respect they are a driving force or not.
The main storyline, however, is about Juno, a minor, getting pregnant, who ends up giving the baby up for adoption to the character Vanessa. Getting there is the focus of the film, and especially the trajectory that carefully leads to the intimate connection between Juno, the birthmother, and Vanessa the adopted, if you will, mother.
Since the movie could be interpreted as a pro-choice story, considering Juno opts out of abortion, (which could have got her out of her predicament), it obviously is not. At least I chose to interpret this not being the case. Rather, the screenwriter makes the case that there is no inherent difference between the biological and the adoptive mother. How is this narrated? By the three characters that are mothers: Juno’s absent mother, the one who abandoned Juno; Bren, Juno’s step-mother who treats Juno as her own – despite the fact that she does have a biological child of her own – and finally Vanessa, who loves Juno’s unborn child more than herself. I believe Diabolo Cody’s makes the case that being a biological mother is no guarantee whatsoever one is a better mother than one who adopts – or by some other mean is expected to care for – a stranger’s child.
When I realized the definition of true motherhood is the screenplay’s central theme, and how beautifully it is narrated by the story’s characters and their actions, I got the chills. How could I not break down in tears? And it is so impressive how this theme so delicately makes its way throughout the film – and being the essential driving theme of the story – without being in your face. So subtle, yet, without it, Juno would not have been as powerful film as it is.
Juno, the screenplay, follows all the classic Hollywood (basically Aristotle-an) narrative principles. It has a couple of plots, character-driven scenes, turning-points, complications, developments and appointments – and these building-blocks are very well – actually masterfully – used by Diabolo Cody. But it is the obviously (how could it not be?) lived experience of the writer, as well as grounded in her faith in women as society’s driving force. Above all, it is a testament of her inherent belief in motherhood as not being defined by biological factors, but rather by the love of life itself, a deep sense of humanity and the power of empathy.
This is what makes Juno a story with a true heart.
Anita B Krišto © 2019