The first few decades of cinema suffered from the same missteps video games are going through right now: trying too hard to fall back on what makes other mediums great. A number of current blockbuster video games end up being terrible games because they attempt to capture film experiences instead of game experiences. About 80 years ago, film was having the same problem by attempting to capture the experience of watching stage plays.
The closest Juno and the Paycock comes to realizing any of the potential artistry of film is in the opening moments when a crowd runs away from a flurry of gunfire. The film cuts away from the crowd to a cat scurrying up a street light. From that shot on, the rest of the film is comprised of droll, stilted shots that watch their subjects as they, talk, sing and get into various forms of trouble.
But even as a play, Juno and the Paycock doesn’t seem to be that compelling. From the opening moments, there’s a dissonance between the backdrop of the Irish revolution and the characters that comprise the film. Even though they live among such turmoil, they appear oblivious and immune to its effects. The aforementioned scene where the crowd runs away from gunfire is followed by a scene where two of the main characters quip back and forth at the local pub after closely dodging death.
The film strains for a good laugh, but neither the jokes nor the delivery is close to amusing. There’s not a laugh to be found within the film’s runtime. Furthermore, after a solid hour or so of comedic farce, the film tries to take a dark turn and it doesn’t work. Not a moment in this film makes one sympathetic or interested in the placid and dull characters, and watching them go through a challenging time lacks any resonance.
At a little under 90 minutes, the film never goes anywhere meaningful or takes the time to develop anything. Perhaps in the length of the play, there was time to explore and develop these characters. In the film, it’s just another farce, another jab and another gag that fails to add up to anything. There’s even ten minutes of people sitting around and singing for no particular reason.
Juno and the Paycock is miserable in just about every way imaginable. It fails to recognize any of the potency or life to be found in the potential of film as an expressive medium. There’s not a moment of life, vibrancy or joy to be found in this film, just a procedural series of events that add up to nothing. It’s a reminded of how backwards the advent of sound was at the time, look at films from just 2 years before and they’re a decade ahead of Juno and the Paycock in terms of style, creativity and wit.
© 2013 James Blake Ewing