Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Devil and Ms. Cody

I've been on both sides of the Diablo Cody Divide. In the Minnesota Star-Tribune, Anti-D vague acquaintance Big Bob Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer has this to say about her detractors.

"She deserves what she has coming to her," Wilonsky said. "This is not accidental and it's not undeserved. Anyone who says otherwise is just a would-be screenwriter with a movie script sitting in their desk that nobody has any interest in."

As someone whose desk is bare of film scripts, I faithfully contend that maybe it's not a problem of jealousy. Maybe some people just notice that she's a talented but not fully developed screenwriter whose film shows promise but not fulfillment. Maybe people realize that it's not the best indie comedy in recent memory, and that it's not even the best indie comedy set in high school (with Rushmore and Election clearly ahead of it). Maybe people notice that in a year with many well-made heavy-hitters, it's hard for some to get too pumped up about a creative but only mildly entertaining high school pregnancy story with an easy ending. Maybe some just find an Oscar ceremony that honored Juno's script but failed to acknowledge the existence of Zodiac to be the butt of some cruel cosmic joke.

I've been on both sides of the Juno backlash. When people were raving about it early on, I was tempering the enthusiasm. When others began to deride the picture, I've said my feelings about it are more positive than negative and that I was pleased by its success against the big boys. Most of the vitriol I've had for Juno has not been directed at the film itself, but for those critics who wanted to use it to practice sociology without a license. Unlike others who instantly declared Juno today's model teen-ager, I've always regarded Juno to be a mid-nineties teenager set in the clothing and language of today's kids. That's the commercially viable but generationally inaccurate way to make a movie about your high school experience.

I don't wish Ms. Busey ill, and I hope she fulfills her promise, with more snappy, original lines and less "All babies want to born-ed." I do fear that with the too-easy Oscar win, she will be encouraged to mistake her bad habits for personal quirks. She has won the right to inspire an entire generation of film scripts that will seem hopelessly dated in 25 years. We have a decade to figure out if that will be her fate.


Pinko Punko said...

A lot of the backlash is likely just the usual sexism, but she should have a shot. What, it's her fault some people gave her an award?

K. Bowen said...

IT's fine, in a way, and not her fault. I think some of it is actually that she's not minding her place as a writer. Too public.