Juno review by Tom Blain

All I can think when I get into the movie theatre is please dont let this be another silly teen-perspective movie. Juno is definitely being marketed as something more than Not Another Teen Movie albeit not blatantly, but still the potential is always there when a high schooler is the main character. But fear not, elder movie goers Juno will entertain even the most callous fuddy duddies.

The title character in Juno (Ellen Page) is a wise cracking 16-year old who gets pregnant after an awkward sexual experiment with her sort-of-best-friend, sort-of-boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera). The act was described by her working class step mother as something she probably did out of boredom. Instead of getting an abortion, she decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption to a couple that will give the fruit of her loins a safe, loving home. In nearby St. Cloud, she finds Vanessa and Mark Lorring (Jennifer Garner, Jason Batemen) who seem to have the yuppie dream home yet no bundle of joy in the pop-corn yellow bedroom. They are the perfect couple for her to literally hand-off the baby to. Themes of responsibility and commitment become central to a few characters in the film as the birth gets closer and closer.

Junos character is the most interesting thing about the movie. She is written as a feminine Holden Caulfield; highly pessimistic towards the world around her and critical of a number of things. For the most part, she is an outcast at her school but by her own will and at the same time, to paraphrase her, she is the nerdy dream girl of a jock or two. Her vocabulary is that of a 30-something literatus with a chip on her shoulder, and her character has the acute awareness to say things like, Im dealing with situations way beyond my maturity level. At times her character seems ready to handle a pregnancy in a way that no teen would be able to realistically. But its not only Juno who has a wit sharper than her probably real life equivalent, but her working low-to-mid class parents Mac and Bren (J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney) as well as cheerleader friend Leah (Olivia Thurby) also speak with an unexpectedly round diction. I had a hard time deciding whether this was clever dialog or insincerity towards the type of people the characters were created to represent but eventually decided to enjoy the rare occurrence. How often can a person say they enjoyed the dialog in a new release? Maybe once or twice a year?

Ellen Page did a spectacular job of transforming herself into the 16 year old Juno in not only looks but mannerisms. Diablo Cody is credited for writing Juno, her first screenplay. Im not certain whether the movie is auto-biographical; IMDB.com does not that she was a stripper so the potential for a mistaken DNA pairing from a mystery pop is definitely high. I'll be the nice guy and assume Juno is fiction. It will be interesting to see if Cody can keep up the strong momentum with flair and aplomb into her next writing venture.

Director Jason Reitman now has two indy-ish hits in a row with Thank You for Smoking and now Juno. Given his fathers Hollywood clout (Ivan Reitman (Stripes and Ghostbusters being his high notes), Jason most likely could have taken the Hollywood low road, but he seems to be taking quality to heart in his early career. Both films show a desire to work with strong scripts with layered messages and actors who have craft without big names. The end result in both cases has been applause worthy.

Juno is getting a lot of award attention this year. I dont know if its award worthy, but its definitely not a bad movie to nominate for a few prizes. With not a whole lot of good movies out in the theatres right now you cant go wrong with Juno.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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