Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Respecting the Edit

When I was in my "Kevin Smith Phase" (which is not something I'm entirely out of, mind you) during my high school career, I did a crawl through the Chasing Amy DVD. It was one of my earliest and best encounters with deleted scenes. I still remember Smith saying "this is the director's cut. The one you see is the director's cut." The scenes were generally interesting, gave a little humorous insight, but were unnecessary and boring. I found myself saying, "I see why he took them out." Or even, "I'm glad he took them out." I felt I was fortunate to learn a little more about the characters and plot, but knew they had no place in the final cut.
Well a couple of months ago I was pouring over my copy of Juno. So I'm watching the deleted scenes, finding them all pretty amusing. Amusing, but cut for all the right reasons. The racist old woman in the very first scene, for instance? Total tone breaker, kills pacing. That was obvious. What I found interesting was the scenes concerning Juno herself. In these scenes, she is a stark raving bitch. She sings about how Bleaker has left her up shit creek without a paddle, berates him at school (more harshly) and just treats everyone around her a little less than peachy keen.
People have said about Juno that she doesn't deserve Bleaker because she is so selfish, but I debate this. I couldn't if those cuts hadn't been made. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is whether or not the theatrical Juno is the real Juno.
It's been said that in a movie's life, three movies are made: the movie of the screenplay, of the raw footage, of the edit. This is more or less true, considering multiple cuts and edits along the way. I still wonder, though, if I can separate the final character from the earlier version. When a film is so lauded for its screenplay, I'm not entirely sure it's right for me to divide it from the finished product so completely. Understand: the movie is entirely different, these scenes considered. You don't know for sure if Juno is a virgin or not when she and Paulie first make love, but I can tell you, in the script, she wasn't too vestal. Instead, she was so ego maniacal she rivaled Lex Luthor.
"Wait," I said, "this isn't my Juno. I love my Juno." This may be the true basis of my problem. She looked like my Juno, but I didn't know this person. And I didn't like her. At all. But here was filmed evidence of this doppelganger being a total shrew.
Can I watch Juno again and like the main character? Is this Diablo Cody's Juno? Does it matter? Well, yes, sort of, and no.
We have to disassociate the bad writing and filming that does get cut from what doesn't. The filmmakers did. If I considered Harpy Juno a sort of apocryphal, true Juno, I'd have to honor 1st draft Col. Kurtz (Holding a machine gun, "I can feel the power in my loins!" I shit you not.) They cut it, it's not real anymore. Cute, telling, food for thought? Yes. But Lucky Charms are food, academically speaking.
As far as the screenwriter goes, well, that's as far as she goes. She didn't direct Juno. Jason Reitman did. Cody did well, but she is not the author of the film. Sorry (don't read that as smug. I mean it.).
I wouldn't have met this Evil Juno whom I didn't recognize had I not the special access DVD affords us. She is a character put to death for being too unlikable for most audiences. Good. There are enough shitty people in real life. We don't need them as our heroes.

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