Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Soul of Wit

I just got back from watching Juno, which a fine example of a well-written comedy. Lots of comedies are entertaining by virtue of the comedic talents of the performers, and the writing serves merely as a platform for them to express those talents (a good example would be Anchorman). There's nothing wrong with that sort of comedy, but it's not the writing that makes it good.

Juno had both witty one-liners and longer bits of clever humor, but it also had a coherent emotionally-potent story that did not rely on typical Hollywood manipulation to power its more touching moments. It reminded me in some ways of the stage version of Pride and Prejudice that I saw recently, but the big flaw in that show was that they tried so hard to work in so much of the novel's clever language. It was a very up and down show because the story's core is the love story, but it gave the witty lines so much weight that the romance lacked heft. Juno succeeded by building around the comedy, which allowed the romance to flourish in a secondary position.