Uncool Running


Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker in Juno, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007 

From The Believer:

Michael Cera runs. He runs in Superbad, escaping the police with his friend Jonah Hill, and he runs in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, after a derelict played by Andy Samberg verbally assaults him on the steps of downtown Manhattan’s Grace Church. “You ever hook up with a dog?” Samberg asks. “Don’t. It’s not worth it.” He advances on Cera. “I like you so much.” Cera turns on his heels and takes off. “Run away,” Samberg says, looking after him wistfully, “run away, little canary….” Cera runs through the woods in Youth in Revolt, escaping his own alter ego: a cooler, more dangerous version of himself, one who wears a beret, smokes cigarettes, and is always urging him to be more sexually aggressive with the little resort-town nymph Sheeni Saunders, herself quite forward.

In Juno, Cera’s Paulie Bleeker is an actual cross-country runner. Sex happens to him only by happenstance, as the aggressive Juno MacGuff gets bored one day, orders him to disrobe, and then mounts him.

For all his running, never once is Cera chasing anybody. (The closest he comes is in Juno: just after crossing the finish line and failing to locate Juno in the stands, he runs to the hospital where Juno is giving birth.) He is never the pursuer. But then again, he is rarely the pursued. In Nick and Norah, nobody chases after him when he runs away, and in Youth in Revolt he is pursued only by a phantom, an id he cannot vanquish and is not sure he wants to. That is the essence of his running: a contest with himself, a test to see if he can become a man—if he can, to use the term of art, man up.

“The Race That Is Not About Winning”, Mark Oppenheimer, The Believer