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How Kimya Dawson Became A Household Name

written by: on April 18, 2012

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What’s better than a movie about a sharp-tongued teenager facing an unplanned pregnancy? The soundtrack to a movie about said pregnant teen. The Juno soundtrack meets that criteria and then some.

The soundtrack comprises a healthy balance of older, classic artists (Buddy Holly, The Kinks, Barry Louis Polisar, etc.) and independent acts (Kimya Dawson, Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, etc.). It has been said that film director Jason Reitman confronted lead actress Ellen Page and asked her what she thought her character, Juno, would listen to. Page introduced Reitman to The Moldy Peaches, which is fronted by Kimya Dawson. That said, Dawson was apparently a perfect fit according to Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody, as she makes a substantial appearance throughout the entirety of the soundtrack—whether in a solo act or with her bands The Moldy Peaches or Antsy Pants.

Juno takes a solemn subject matter (teen pregnancy) and manages to spin it into a dark comedy. Ultimately, the film’s level of success was in part due to the supporting music. It’s as if the songs in the soundtrack were written for the movie. Four songs, in particular, really stand out: “All I Want Is You” (Barry Louis Polisar), “A Well Respected Man (The Kinks), “Sea of Love” (Cat Power) and “Anyone Else But You” (written by The Moldy Peaches but sung by Michael Cera and Ellen Page).

The movie follows the story of Juno, the teen protagonist who is with child, through her pregnancy and her relationship with the to-be-adoptive parents, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The film opens with animated montage of Juno wandering about town with a jug of Sunny Delight and the song “All I Want Is You” playing in the background. In retrospect, this song is a perfect reflection of Juno and her on-again, off-again, sort-of boyfriend Paulie’s (Michael Cera) connection. This early in the movie, however, it’s hard to see how well the lyrics parallel the relationship: “All I want is you, will you be my bride / Take me by the hand and stand by my side / All I want is you, will you stay with me? / Hold me in your arms and sway me like the sea.” Toward the end of the film, the relationship progresses and it becomes obvious that Juno and Paulie are meant for each other. “He’s the macaroni to my cheese,” says Juno.

Ultimately, the film’s level of success was in part due to the supporting music. It’s as if the songs in the soundtrack were written for the movie.

For the most part, the movie is narrated by Juno. A few scenes in, she introduces Paulie, who runs for the high-school track team. During the clip, Paulie is shown getting up in the morning, pulling on his track socks, applying anti-chafe gel to his thighs, putting on his wrist bands and preparing a breakfast pop tart. Meanwhile, the song “A Well Respected Man” plays. “Cause he gets up in the morning / And he goes to work at nine / And he comes back home at five-thirty / Gets the same train every time / Cause his world is built round punctuality / It never fails,” sing The Kinks. The song choice for this scene not only emulates Paulie’s personality and stellar dedication to his running regimen, it also shows how Juno puts Paulie on a pedestal.

As Juno progresses, the adoptive parents are introduced and their relationship with Juno is expounded upon. The movie portrays many of the struggles a pregnant teenager faces (social situations in school, finding clothes that fit, etc.). Several months later, Juno’s child is born. She immediately gives it up for adoption, without even holding it. Hours after giving birth, there’s a scene where Paulie and Juno and laying in her hospital bed and “Sea of Love” is playing in the background. In this same scene, the adoptive mother (Jennifer Garner) is meeting the baby for the first time. The timing and lyrics of the song accommodate both situations perfectly because not only are Juno and Paulie realizing the depth of their relationship, the adoptive mother is creating a bond with her new baby. “Do you remember / When we met / That’s the day / I knew you were mine / I wanna tell you / How much / I love you,” sings Cat Power.

The movie concludes with Juno and Paulie collaborating on “Anyone Else But You.” Both characters singing and on guitar, they sing: “You’re a part time lover and a full time friend / The monkey on your back is the latest trend / I don’t see what anyone can see / In anyone else but you.” This song wraps up the overarching theme of the movie, which is finding love and learning to accept who you are. Although Page’s acting talent and Reitman’s directing skills deserve a tremendous amount of credit, the soundtrack truly helps bring this quirky independent film to chart-topping levels.

  • Darren

    Terrible movie and even worse soundtrack, ugh!

  • Miroslav Toman

    There you are, Scott! :-P