The Use of Dialogue in Juno

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The film Juno (2007) is an excellent American independent coming of age teen comedy film that effectively tackles the topic of unplanned teenage pregnancy and the pressures of taking up adult responsibilities at such a young age. The film stars, Juno MacGuff, a 16-year old Minnesota high schooler, who realizes that she is expectant for Paulie Bleeker, her long-time friend and admirer. Juno quickly considers getting an abortion, but she quickly changes her mind upon meeting one of her former schoolmates who is a staunch pro-life. Juno thus considers giving up her child for adoption and even gets a couple who will take up her child for adoption. However, as Juno's pregnancy progresses, her feelings for Paulie heighten, and the two consider being together for their child. Juno is an excellent movie not only because of its great storyline but also because of its superb use of cinematography in addressing the controversial topics of teen pregnancy and abortions. The film does a fantastic job of portraying a present-day pregnant 16-year old along with their thought process and changing attitude throughout the pregnancy experience. Other than the great use of cinematography in the film, the director, Jason Reitman effectively uses sound as a technique to better illustrate the theme of personal responsibility in the movie.  In fact, the film won a number of awards and topped the charts as a result of its excellent soundtracks. Therefore, the film, Juno effectively utilizes the filmic techniques of dialogue, diegetic and non-diegetic sounds and music to create a perfect setting and atmosphere for the plot to develop and to navigate the controversial subject of teenage pregnancy and abortions effectively.

The explicit meaning of Juno is explored through the use of dialogue as a cinematic technique. Dialogue serves as one of the most memorable sounds in any film, so much that today most of the lines from lines have become part of the standard American cultural bilingual dictionary. Once, sixteen-year-old Juno becomes pregnant she is confronted with a difficult situation from which she must take a definite course of action. Juno's choice to carry on with her pregnancy and have her child signifies her zeal in taking responsibilities over her actions. When Juno says to Paulie, "At least you don't have the evidence under the sweater" it makes the audience learn that she quickly realizes the consequences for her actions (Reitman). To emphasize the line, the film uses several close-ups of Juno's pregnant belly to give the viewers a better visual understanding of the magnitude of Juno's choice. Additionally, the film uses dialogue to illustrate Juno's character, her youth and intelligence better. Although Juno's intelligence is evidenced in her witty and sarcastic references like ‘sea biscuit' and ‘fluoridated water' the manner in which she keeps repeating the name ‘Gerta Rouse' in a made-up German pronunciation illustrates her immature ways of talking as well as her way of acting without thinking about the repercussions of her actions, which resulted in her pregnancy (Reitman). Besides, the manner in which Juno keeps referring to her unborn baby as "it" illustrates that she is not yet attached to her child yet. When Juno says to Vanessa, "You are fortunate it's not you" it illustrates that Juno lacks an understanding of what Vanessa must be feeling for struggling to have a child (Reitman). The statement permeates through Juno's youth where she does not think before she speaks.

Dialogue is equally used in the film to bring out the characters of Mac, Mark and Vanessa. Mac, who is Juno's father uses sarcasm to deal with the emotional turmoil of his teenage daughter being pregnant. The situation is difficult for him on so many levels, but he only wants the best for his daughter. Mac's dialogue reveals that he is a much lower educational level than his daughter and that he had hoped that his daughter first excels in school. In his dialogue, however, he shows that despite it all, he is still very smart and mature as evidenced when he tells Juno "We're fine. Thank you" (Reitman). The statement illustrates his support for Juno's decisions despite her mistakes. On the other hand, Mark, Vanessa's husband, keeps describing himself as "The husband" (Reitman). However, in the subsequent scenes, he stresses that "Vanessa has always wanted a child" portraying that it was Vanessa who wanted to have a baby so bad and not him (Reitman). Also, when Juno questions him on his eagerness to being a father, he replies, "Sure why not" illustrating that he is not as serious on the adoption issue as Vanessa. Mark's dialogic responses illustrate that they hold different ideas on the baby with his wife. When Mark follows Juno upstairs, and the two have a one-on-one dialogue the feelings of Mark's unpreparedness to have a child are evidenced. Mark reveals to Juno of his fears to be labelled as a "paranoid yuppies" while countering Juno's "klepto" comment; he uses the line "I can't get a klepto vibe from you. Maybe. Arsonist? Would not dismiss it" (Reitman). The statement outright portrays that he does not act like a man ready to adopt a child, but rather he takes on a flirtatious and competitive tone to be on the same level as Juno, who is not willing to be an adult yet (Reitman).  Lastly, the use of dialogue brings out Vanessa as an intelligent, formal and uptight character. She is ready to have the baby and does not want to mess up the adoption process in any way. She strives to make Juno feel at home "I'll get drinks or would you rather take Vitamin Water" (Reitman). The line illustrates Vanessa's desires to put the health of the baby as a priority. During the scene, Vanessa strives to maintain the topic of adoption while focusing on Juno's health. The use of dialogue thus brings out Vanessa as a character who is obsessed with motherhood and wants to be a mother so bad.

The film, also strongly utilizes the use of non-diegetic sounds in pushing the narrative structure. An excellent example of the use of non-diegetic sound is evidenced in the film's opening scene which shows the pictures of Juno walking along with her Sunny D while the song "All I Want is You" by Barry Louis plays in the scene's background. The use of the non-diegetic sound in the scene serves as a cinematographic element since Juno does not recognize the music playing and it has no apparent source in the film, but rather it is intended to add effects to the scene (Reitman). The nature of the song is upbeat while the lyrics are about a guy saying that he would do everything for the woman he loves. The non-diegetic sequence of the song thus quickly infers that the film revolves around a teenage love story (Reitman). Additionally, the opening quickly informs the viewers that the movie will follow a carefree tone as evidenced by the manner in which Juno walks around, swinging her Sunny D around with a careless facial expression (Reitman).

Furthermore, the film actively employs the use of diegetic sounds as a means to confront the controversial subject of teen pregnancy and abortions. The one scene stands out with its use of diegetic sound is the one where Juno goes to the clinic to procure an abortion. As she goes to the clinic, Juno meets one of her former schoolmates standing outside the clinic as she strongly protests abortions (Reitman). The friend starts yelling by telling her the facts about her baby and the one that grabs Juno's attention is that it already has fingernails. As Juno proceeds to the clinic and sits down, she draws attention to the different sounds of people as they use their fingernails. All the biting, tapping, scratching and painting of the nails by the people in the waiting room create a loud diegetic sound for Juno that she starts meditating on her baby (Reitman). The people in the waiting room make Juno think about the fingernails of the baby thus convincing her to keep her pregnancy. The use of the diegetic sounds in the scene is evidenced in the biting, painting, tapping and painting of nails all of which help to convince Juno that her child is a living being and thus that abortion is not a safe option (Reitman).

The film also capitalizes on the use of simple music soundtracks to bring out difficult moments. The film uses simple soundtracks like Buddy Holly's ‘Dearest' and Velvet Underground's ‘I'm Sticking with You" which contain two to three chords maximum and lyrics that could be easily read and understood even by a young child (Reitman). The use of a laid-back and simple tone plays a critical role in Juno as it illustrates that big real-life problems deserve music whose depths reside in the simplest of words. Although some of the songs seem to be a little silly, they are intended to better relate to the younger generations, who are the film's key audience, as opposed to the older generations (Saltau 110). The use of simple lyrics is intentionally used to mirror Juno's life to effectively bring out the absurdity and weirdness that comes with Joan's pre-adult limbo life. For example, the soundtrack used just before the closing credits rolls "Anyone Else but You" by Kimya Dawson, illustrates that Joan and Paulie are uncertain of what lies ahead for them as a new parent and the soundtrack thus effectively captures a heartfelt new chapter in their relationship as it portrays the specific and unknown nature of transition (Saltau 110).

The selection of the soundtracks in the film was tastefully done to include an all-star Indie rock cast that consists of The Kinks, Cat Power, Velvet Underground and the Sonic Youth.  The use of the soundtracks was intentional to make the film capture on Juno's psychic fuzz, growing pains and the shadows of early adulthood. The different soundtracks complement each other as a means of building on the storyline (Saltau 110). From the start of the film to its end, the different soundtracks sound like a ‘too-cool-for-you record collection' as all the tracks communicate different distinct issues to the viewers (Saltau 110). The soundtracks in the film, do not set the scenes rather they are the scenes in the movie. For example, the soundtrack "If You Were a River" by Barry Louis, reflects the life of 16-year old, Juno who is discovering that growing up sucks. In the opening scene, where the soundtrack plays, Juno barely gets the chance to finish her Sunny D drink before stepping out into the animated version of her town which and meeting the hard reality of life (Saltau 110).  The soundtrack thus echoes the transition. Additionally, the soundtrack "Tire Swing" is a perfectly off-beat tune which accompanies Juno's pseudo-suicide attempt using a liquorice rope. The soundtracks are thus tastefully used to being out the scenes to the understanding of the viewers creating an overlapping effect between the musical irony and visual despair (Saltau 110).

 Lastly, the songs used in the film act as sympathetic narrators to better emphasize on the subject matter. The use of Kimya Dawson's original songs throughout the play to better serve as sympathetic narrators which reference Juno's unfolding predicaments while linking the different scenes in the movie, the way a sympathetic narrator would (Saltau 110). For example, Kimya's "Tree Hugger" cushions of the impact of Juno opening up to her admirer Paulie that she thinks she loves him whereas the song "Sea of Love" by Cat Power brings out Juno's labor scene as one that is dominated by pure melancholy (Saltau 110). Therefore, each of the songs in the film is instrumental in evoking different feelings in the movie. The songs thus illustrate that they may not hold the answer to all of Juno's problems, but they serve as a reminder that her worries are just but temporary (Saltau 110).  

In conclusion, as seen above, the film, Juno effectively utilizes the filmic techniques of dialogue, diegetic and non-diegetic sounds and music to create a perfect setting and atmosphere for the plot to develop and to navigate the controversial subject of teenage pregnancy and abortions effectively. Dialogue serves as a cinematic technique that lets the viewers into the characters of the different cast members, thus better understanding their behaviors and motives. Through the use of dialogue, the viewers better understand Juno's dilemma and journey with her to the end of the film.  Besides, the use of non-diegetic sounds is used to push the narrative while reflecting the different complexities in the scenes. On the other hand, the use of diegetic sound is strategically used as a voice of reason especially for the main character, Juno who is conflicted over her situation. Lastly, the film is dominated by the use of soundtracks and music which are tastefully done to help push the narrative while serving as sympathetic narrators of the events in the movie.

Works Cited

Reitman, Jason. Juno. Beverly Hills, Calif: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2007.

Saltau, Margaret. "Not Just Another Teen Movie: Juno-a Study Guide." Screen Education 52 (2008): 110.

September 25, 2023




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