January 19, 2014

Jenny, Juno: Teen Pregnancy Is So Twee, Right?

I found Jenny, Juno detestable. That's right. Detestable. A lighthearted puffball about an adolescent girl who gets pregnant (but looks as lithe at six months as she did before getting knocked up) and her pouting boyfriend (who looks as though he's never had a lewd thought, never mind a pubic hair), Kim Ho-joon's YA rom-com suggests the sole repercussions of an underage pregnancy are the girl's growing appetite and the boy's desire to emulate John Hughes movies. What's weird is that Kim is actually building an oeuvre about marrying minors. His previous romantic comedy -- My Little Bride -- concerns a high school girl who discovers that her arranged marriage with an older guy might not be such a bad deal in the end. So is having both the lovers be young this time around an improvement? Quite possibly. But I'm not totally sure.

I think part of the problem of Jenny, Juno is that the two lead actors (Park Min-ji, Kim Hye-sung) don't just look super-young, they also play super-young. There's something mildly depressing about seeing a ditzy, expectant teenage girl lying on a bed piled high with stuffed animals and personalized throw pillows. The young couple's single concession to impending parenthood consist of standing outside a Lamaze class to glean instructions from the other side of a glass window. Evidently, it's enough to simply watch what's happening once to master the technique. Who knew it was this easy?

Everyone knows it's not. Which is what made the American-made Juno (similar title, similar plot, completely different attitude) so engaging. The title character of this latter movie had to struggle with physical discomforts, savage ostracism, and some painful choices that have to do with being a teen mom. That Juno managed to extract a happy ending from a complicated reality; this one includes a chaste fantasy wedding that made me want to cry like a baby. And then puke. Apparently, Jenny, Juno causes morning sickness!

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