Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Johnny Flynn / "Juno"

I treated myself to an evening of folk-inflected music in the (frankly unsuitable) downstairs bar of Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach a few days ago. First on were locals The Lionhearts, who were in the semi-acoustic indie mould, and fairly likeable. Next up came the wispier, female-led The Mechanical Bride – notable for much instrument-swapping (they boasted a euphonium/theremin-player), and a delightful cover of Rihanna’s “Umbrella”. The headliners were Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, who started off with their best known song, “The Box”, and also played their new single, “Leftovers” early in the set, displaying a confidence in their material which was, as it turned out, entirely justified. Flynn’s tales of rustic life might easily be interpreted as pastiche; they came across, however as authentic English country music. Again, there was much swapping of instruments, Flynn himself playing trumpet and violin as well as guitar. The only faintly depressing thing about the evening was the fact that everyone on stage looked about twelve.

As a result of a wave of middling reviews, following on from the initial hype, my expectations for “Juno” were relatively low. Happily, though, I was utterly charmed. Ellen Page has been rightly lauded, but there were beautifully subtle performances all round, especially from Michael Cera and Jennifer Garner; Jason’ Reitman’s direction cleverly wrong-foots us at every opportunity; and Diablo Cody’s script is every bit as witty as had been advertised, and only occasionally irritating. It’s quite refreshing to see a film about small-town America which manages to paint the bulk of the characters as basically decent without resorting to sickly sweetness. And its success is also encouraging for those of us who harbour the naïve belief that all one has to do to get a film made is write a good screenplay.


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