' Cinema Romantico: Yes, People Talk Like That In Real Life

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yes, People Talk Like That In Real Life

Well, it appears the time has come yet again for Cinema Romantico to go on the offensive in regards to movie-related backlash. This time said backlash is being at directed at this year's little indie-related gem "Juno" (which just earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture which will undoubtedly lead to even more backlash). In fact, on his blog Scanners Jim Emerson recently stated he expects the anti-backlash backlash to begin any day now. Very well. Let this herald the beginning of the anti-backlash backlash.

The backlash, from what can I tell, stems mostly from "Juno's" very distinct dialogue. (A sample: "(My mom) inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine's Day. And I'm like, 'Thanks a heap, coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment.'") This has often led to the response: "Nobody talks like that in real life."


I quote Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun Times who took exception to the words of the film: "The notion that kids -- even smart and sarcastic ones -- talk like Juno is a lie only thirty-something filmmakers and fifty-something movie critics could buy."

I also quote Rob Harvilla of the Village Voice, who says that "Juno" possesses "....the fakest dialogue imaginable....Teenagers who talk like thirtysomething screenwriters."

I could, of course, simply advise that "Juno" has essentially coined what should be termed Codyspeak (as in Diablo Cody, the screenwriter of the movie). This would be inspired by Mametspeak, named for the great screenwriter and playwrite David Mamet. His dialogue is so consistently memorable and unique and exists essentially only within its own universe that a name was given to it. Codyspeak - like Mametspeak - is as much about the rhythmic pattern of the words as it is about the words themselves. Reality is not as important as tone. Mamet likes to find a particular word or phrase (think "the leads" in "Glengarry Glen Ross") and repeat it again and again and again. Cody's constant use of pop culture in "Juno" works in the same way.

You might hear people whine after a Mamet movie about how much they disliked the dialogue but you rarely hear them say "Nobody talks like that in real life" since they accept the fact Mametspeak is - as stated - part of its own world. Why isn't this being done with Codyspeak? Perhaps because it was one of those Little Movies That Could which emerged from Sundance and initially a small band of people liked it and slowly more and more people latched onto it and so once too many people liked it then pretty much everyone else - and some of the ones who probably liked it before - had to start hating it.

But I won't advise any of that and instead offer up a foolproof defense of why the dialogue spoken by the Juno of "Juno" can and does, in fact, exist in real life.

Last Friday I sat next to Juno McGuff on the train.

Okay, okay, not the real Juno McGuff but you would have been hard pressed to tell this girl apart from Ellen Page as Juno McGuff. I proceeded to stare at the same page of my book, unable to concentrate on it, as I listened to "Juno" (who talked in precisely the same dry, rat-a-tat-tat manner as the movie Juno) and her friend talk for the next 20 minutes. She was under the age of 18 and I know this because she had just come from getting her nose pierced and found it odd that the person who had done the piercing hadn't actually asked for ID "since, you know, you're supposed to be of age or have a consenting adult with you. I just had you (i.e. Her Friend)". "If they'd asked me," replied her Friend, "I wouldn't have consented." "That's why they didn't ask," retorted "Juno".

"Juno" then proceeded to let her hand dangle over the nose ring without actually laying a finger on it because, "I'm afraid to touch it. It might stick something it shouldn't and I'd, like, totally gush blood all over. Come on, everybody, ride the red line." And, oh, do I wish you could have heard the way she phrased that last line because, man, it was brilliant.

(And yes, by the way, that quote was pretty much exact as are all the quotes of hers listed. I'm a writer. This is what I do. I eavesdrop on the train. All the time. I don't like to talk. I like to listen. Even when I'm with people I know. And when I listen I'm taking extensive mental notes. So beware.)

"Juno" and her friend then proceeded to discuss another they girl they knew whose feet smelled like "tuna". (And, if you've seen "Juno", you know there's a character they talk about who always smells like "soup".) Her friend wondered if this other girl wasn't wearing socks but "Juno" seemed to think it was because this other girl's shoes "wreaked" and needed to "totally be scrubbed".

From there they drifted into "Juno's" father having just taught her how to do laundry. "He printed out instructions for how to do laundry off the internet." This was followed by a brief discussion regarding Tide being the best detergent.

When it came time for them to depart the train at the Belmont stop "Juno" was stressing out because the pink bag she had with her was "as big as (her) head" and she feared she might hit someone as she tried to disembark. As they made their way out she apologized to a person she did end up smacking with said bag by stating, "I'm sorry. It contains all my valuables."

I was sad to see her depart because I wanted to take her down to the Sun Times office and show her to Jim DeRogatis and then to the Village Voice office and show her to Rob Harvilla and then I wanted to tape record her talking and send the tape to all the "Juno" haters. After all, there's nothing more detrimental to the argument "nobody talks like that in real life" then, you know, someone who talks like that in real life.

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