Even with all the changes roiling the worlds of popular music and film, it doesn’t appear that their symbiotic relationship will end anytime soon. Almost every year brings a new “little indie film that could,” with its attendant soundtrack that catches on. Apparently the rule is the cutesier the better: think of Little Miss Sunshine helping DeVotchKa reach a wider audience, Aimee Mann’s precious creations for the sometimes overly precious Magnolia, or Rushmore introducing a bunch of ’70s gems to a new generation. For 2007, the award goes to the soundtrack for Juno. (Sorry Once, but you were a wholly other, much more serious beast.)
The star of the Juno soundtrack is anti-folk icon and ex-Moldy Peach Kimya Dawson. Her songs serve as a kind of inner monologue for the actual star of the film, the very verbose and witty title character played by breakout Canuck pixie Ellen Page. Dawson’s music shows up in various forms: solo songs like the Bush-berating “Loose Lips”; tracks from the Dawson side project, Antsy Pants, like the frenetic “Vampire”; and the old Moldy Peaches charmer “Anyone Else but You.” Page’s and costar Michael Cera’s abbreviated take on the song closes the soundtrack, as it does the film; even in shortened form, it’s enough to convince us that the two thespians would do best to stick to acting.
Aside from Dawson’s contributions, the soundtrack is a mix of indie staples and studies in Rushmore-esque nostalgia. “Piazza, New York Catcher” and “Expectations” are culled from the Belle and Sebastian back catalog. The latter namedrops the Velvet Underground, and, hey, there’s “I’m Sticking with You,” a song that proves one of the darkest bands in rock history still had a sense of humor. And the Kinks (celebrated on the Rushmore soundtrack) show up here with “A Well Respected Man.”
Far be it from me, especially here in my dwindling word count, to take on a thorough assessment of Juno the film’s strengths and weaknesses. Suffice it to say I found it cute. Denying the movie’s charm is the equivalent of turning down petting a puppy. Same goes for this soundtrack. Dawson’s quirky little ditties have a way of making you forget their faults (i.e., her odd fecal fetish), which in turn helps the whole soundtrack avoid being rote and formulaic.