27 January, 2008

Water, Juno, Water!


Spunky. Witty. Entertaining. Unsure. Surface. Unexpected. Enjoyed.

Ellen Page stars as Juno, a witty teenage girl whose boredom doesn’t lead her to the mall. Instead, she makes a one-time trip into the arms of her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). When Juno discovers that she’s pregnant, she’s forced to grow up fast as she tries to find adoptive parents for her quickly growing child… (from Rotten Tomatoes)

“It started with a chair”

I liked this movie. I did. And I want to be sure that's clear before I try to process this much further.

Juno's pregnant. After three confirmed pregnancy test's and a rather classic scene with the convenience store clerk she goes home and calls her best friend on her hamburger phone. Her first reaction is one of many: she's going to get an abortion. She finds a clinic that does it without parental consent and goes. Outside she encounters a toned down (and very sweet) "protester" (not even) who she knows from school, they talk, the girl mentions finger nails and Juno goes in. She can't do it. And in the course of walking out of the clinic and reaching her best friend's house Juno has made the decision - adoption!

So, best friend it tow, they go to find the neighborhood paper that includes want ads and job offers and other misc. items that only apply to your area of town (I think it's called the Silver Penny where my parents are...). Anyway! On a park bench they find an ads for adoptive parents and Juno nails down her ideal family.

There starts Juno's pregnancy broken into seasons as she does not really struggle with being pregnant ever, and blissfully, with head held high, quick remarks coming, walks to the faithful day she can leave it all behind and be 16 again.

My issue with this movie lies in the fact that this movie was not what I expected. I was expecting a drama, something with a lot of heart. I've seen adoption up close and I thought Juno was going to show her relationship to each of the characters (her parents, Bleeker, the adoptive parents, etc.) as it related to them dealing with a 16 year old being pregnant. But I don't think that was their intention. I think they wanted a light-hearted, funny, witty movie that showed adoption in a positive way - and showed how the unexpected turns in life can actually make us face things we don't want to. Maybe.

I don't know, Juno was cute, but there was little character development. Bleeker - who is supposedly her best friend - is written into the story more because you need a boy to make a baby, vs. someone who genuinely cares for Juno. Though it is obvious he loves her - that does not translate into his actions, or lack there of. I think they could have done more with the movie, but that probably would have taken away from what they were trying to do with the story overall.

I need to see it again so I can watch it without my preconceived notions. It was remarkably funny, clever - I cried. It was a good movie.

Juno: The little indy movie that could!


Set in 1938 Colonial India, against Mahatma Gandhi's rise to power, an 8-year-old Chuyia is widowed and sent to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. Chuyia's feisty presence deeply affects the lives of the other residents, including a young widow, who falls for a Gandhian idealist. (from yahoo movies)

The making of fire was disrupted in 2000 by protesters in the area of India they were supposed to film. Everything was ready - cast, crew, set, etc. and it all had to be abandoned before one frame was done.

Flash to 2005 - a new cast, a new crew, a new location - Sri Lanka. Water is made.

It's a heartbreaking story - really. Give up any ideas one might have of this being a happily ever after love story. It's not. And in that is Water's beauty. Shunned by society these widows - many from very young ages - spend the rest of their lives rejected from both families, shunned by society, forced to beg and eek out a half-existence.

I won't claim to know Hinudism - Water makes the claim that the religion says a wife is half her husband's body - and when he dies he takes that half with him The wife is then unclean - and half human - who must suffer and deny everything until she dies and can, hopefully, join him in heaven. The widows shave their heads and wear only white, waiting for the day they die.

Chuyia is widowed before she realizes she married. She didn't know she was a wife, and so didn't understand what it was that happened around her. Her father leaves her at the home and Chuyia, only seven, struggles to adapt. The women are hollow, empty, void of anything. They have been told for decades they are unclean. They are shunned by society and told, in some ways, it's their fault for not dying with (or before) their husbands.

Chuyia becomes friends with a young widow, Kalyani, who is very beautiful and has long flowing hair. We learn she is the breadwinner for the home as the chief widow, Madhumati, sends her across the river to sleep with upper caste men. It's not until the girls run into Narayan outside the home that things change. Narayan, a man who believes in the teachings of Gandhi and rebels against the repressive, caste based India, falls for Kalyani.

After several conversations Narayan asks Kalyani to marry him. Word gets back to Madhumati, who is not too happy the bread winner is leaving, and locks her in her room. Another widow begins to ask a close religious leader what is actually said about widows in the book. Are they really supposed to endure so much pain and scorn? He does not tell her no, but offers a trite message of "this is how it's always been." The widow, realizing it's now or never for things to change, goes and frees Kalyani, who goes to her beau's side.

Happiness ends there.

Water, made by an Indian producer looking back into her country, it set in the 1930's because (I think) audiences would have a hard time accepting that this could still be going on. But it is. And worse. And while I won't turn this post into a rant about the injustices in India, Water is a quiet commentary about the traditions in India that are taken for granted, though a) have no spiritual base, or b) were abolished a long time ago.

It is a beautiful movie, subtle and tragic. Showing us a side of India that should have passed away with the rise of Gandhi, but still remains, even if it has just adapted itself in the last 80 years.

See it, it really is a moving movie.

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