The dialogue from “Juno” effectively reveals a great deal about all four characters involved.
In this week’s lecture, we learned the importance of “Be(ing) attuned to your characters’ backgrounds, their education, their states of mind.” The dialogue in this scene was successful in doing all of that. Having the four meet like this was a genius way to get all four personalities on screen simultaneously and reveal their motivations and insecurities all at once. Also, “the dialogue here is effective because of the way it moves back and forth between mundane exchanges.”
Juno’s dialogue relays her nervous energy as well as her youth and intelligence. While we see her intelligence through some sarcastic and witty references like “fluoridated water” and “sea biscuit,” the way Juno repeats Gerta Rouse’s name in “an exaggerated German accent” shows her adolescent way of speaking and acting without thinking about repercussions (much like how she wound up pregnant). Also, the fact that Juno refers to her unborn child as “it” shows she isn’t yet attached or perhaps she’s trying not to be. When she tells Vanessa, “You’re lucky it’s not you” it shows she clearly has no comprehension of what this woman must have felt wanting so badly to conceive a child. Her youth shows through again here because she’s not trying to hurt Vanessa’s feelings, but rather she simply doesn’t think before she speaks.
Her father Mac uses sarcasm to deal with a very emotionally challenging situation. His teenage daughter is knocked up and about to give up his only grandchild. This is difficult for him on so many levels, including having to see his daughter suffer. But he wants what is best for both his child and grandchild. His dialogue reveal’s a lower education level than his daughter who he must have pushed to excel in school. Still, his dialogue shows that he is indeed smart. He comes across as an older, more mature version of Juno. In contrast to Juno’s flippant speak-before-she-thinks type comments, he replies more thoughtfully and tries to show his family has manners with things like “We’re fine. Thank you.”
Mark starts off by describing himself as “the husband.” That seems like an innocent comment but like we learned in this week’s lecture what people do not say is just as important as what they say. Later in this scene when Mark says “Vanessa has wanted a child since we got married” he may not realize that he is implying that it was just Vanessa wanting the baby and not him. When Juno asks Mark if he’s looking forward to being a dad and he nonchalantly replies, “sure, why not” that shows that he’s not taking the matter seriously and that he and his wife are not on the same page. All of this foreshadows the unraveling of their relationship. When Mark replies to Juno’s “kickin’ it old school comment” with “technically that would be kickin’ it Old Testament” it shows he is able to easily bring himself down to an adolescent level to relate to Juno. At this point it seems endearing but later in the scene and even more so later in the film we learn that he can’t help it since he hasn’t quite grown up enough himself to deal with having a child. When Mark follows Juno upstairs, their one-on-one dialogue heightens this feeling. He reveals his fear of being perceived as “paranoid yuppies” and then counters Juno’s “klepto” comment with “I don’t get a klepto vibe from you. Evil genius? Maybe. Arsonist? Wouldn’t rule it out.” He doesn’t speak to her like a man who is about to adopt her child. He speaks in an almost flirtatious or competitive tone instead, like someone trying to be on her same level or who’s not ready to let go of his own childhood and grow up just yet.
Vanessa comes across as well educated, overly formal, a little uptight and concerned. It is obvious that she wants this baby and she’s afraid to somehow mess up the opportunity. She works hard to impress Juno and Mac and make them feel at home. She thinks of everything. “I’ll get drinks… I’ve got Pellegrino, Vitamin Water…” shows her desire to put the baby’s health first as well as portray her and Mark as healthy and suitable potential parents. Throughout the scene, she tries to keep everyone on topic and focus on the baby and Juno’s health. In a way, this makes Vanessa seem cold and even obsessed with motherhood. This may make the viewer dislike her here but later it allows us to look back and value the fact that she puts the baby first when we see that this quality is what makes her a good mother.