Director Jason Reitman uses the cinematic techniques of scenery and sound to underscore the theme of personal responsibility in Juno. Explicitly, Juno deals with Juno’s character taking responsibility for her accidental pregnancy. However, implicitly, the film addresses relationships and stereotypes and their intersection with responsibility and class. Our cultural mores of the working class are questioned by Juno’s character. Paralleling this, cultural mores of the upper middle class “yuppies” are also challenged by the actions of Mark, the prospective father.
The explicit meaning of Juno is made clear with dialogue as well as cinematic techniques. Sixteen-year-old Juno becomes pregnant and must decide on a course of action. Her choice to keep her baby signifies her taking responsibility for her actions. Her saying to Paulie Bleaker, “at least you don’t have the evidence under your sweater” shows that she realizes the implications of her actions. The choice to have sex and keep her baby negatively impacts her life at school. Throughout the film there are several close ups of Juno’s pregnant belly. This gives the viewer the visual to understand the magnitude of responsibility she has chosen to accept.
The implicit meaning of Juno becomes significantly more nuanced. The political message and meaning of the movie is to change our stereotypes around class. One way the director of Juno accomplishes this is by using scenery to juxtapose the lives of Juno’s “working class” family and Vanessa and Mark’s “upper middle class” family. The images of the two different houses reinforce common stereotypes surrounding class. Society generally thinks of the working class as being “lazy” and irresponsible. The stereotypes of order and responsibility are connected to the middle and upper classes. At first, Juno’s small and disorganized house leads us to think negatively of her family. The “perfect” house and lives of Vanessa and Mark give us the notion that they are responsible adults with their lives together. The difference between Juno’s messy minivan and the Loring’s nice material items further affirms previous beliefs. Yet, throughout the film Juno becomes more responsible in the viewer’s eyes, and Mark’s image becomes drastically more negative. The close ups on the actors’ faces help the audience connect with the characters emotions and allows the viewer to sympathize with Juno.
This turn-around of expectations is further developed by the careful cinematic use of sound and music. In the more dramatic scenes, silence is used as a tool to elicit an emotional response from the viewer. For example, when Mark tells Juno he is planning on leaving Vanessa, the shift in Juno’s mood is reflected by the music being turned off. The music expressed the calmness of the characters. In contrast, the silence relays the anger and disappointment Juno feels in that moment.
Cinematic techniques are used continuously throughout the film to show the viewer the meaning of responsibility. Scenery and sound show the depth of feeling in Juno as she accepts responsibility for a pregnancy and later as Vanessa accepts the responsibility of mothering the adopted baby. The implicit meaning of the movie addresses the relationship between class and responsibility. The viewer’s preconceptions are reversed and questioned by the end of the film.