Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Juno is a critically acclaimed movie by director Jason Reitman - and from the moment the credits start rolling, you know it.

Because Juno is filmed in Reitman's signature style - making the whole thing seem incredibly 'worthy' and 'significant' - which to us regular popcorn munchers, is an indication of 'pretentious' and 'self important.'

From the animated credits to the dreary acoustic soundtrack, the entire movie seems cynically created to appeal to a specific demographic. The sort of people who draw an arbitrary line between 'filmmaking' and 'entertainment.'

But fortunately, Juno is as entertaining as it is 'worthy.' The script, by former stripper Diablo Cody, is electric and more than makes up for the bland directing.

Juno is the story of 16 year old Minnesota high-schooler Juno MacGuff, who discovers she's become pregnant from a one-time encounter with her friend/maybe boyfriend Bleeker (played with utterly bland indifference by Superbad's Michael Cera.)

At first, the troubled teen contemplates abortion, until a pro-life friend talks her out of it with the knowledge that unborn babies (even twelve week old ones, like Juno's) have fingernails. After listening to the deafening rattle of other people's fingernails, she decides to see her pregnancy through to term and put the baby up for adoption.

Through a Pennysaver magazine, she discovers Mark and Vanessa - a seemingly perfect middle class couple looking to adopt. However, as the months go past, it appears that Vanessa and Mark's relationship isn't as idyllic as Juno hoped.

The whole thing is utterly immersive. The ensemble cast work brilliantly together, especially Juno's oddball father and stepmother (J. K. Simmons and Alison Janney) who show the contrast between a happy and contented 'poor' family and the emotional vacuum of 'rich' Mark and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner is perfectly cast as the apparently fearsome matriarch-to-be.)

Only star Ellen Page really jars. Just like the teenager she played in thriller Hard Candy, she seems just a little too confident and wise - almost as if Diablo Cody had given her sixteen year old character a thirty year old brain. When she's discussing alternative rock bands with adoptive father-to-be Mark, it's hard not to wonder why such a smart girl didn't use a condom in the first place and avoid this whole situation.

The movie wraps up nicely - I won't spoil the ending by telling you what happens to the baby, but it's satisfying to see that the typical Hollywood happy ending has been forgone for something a little more poignant and thought provoking.

All in all, Juno is a smart, funny and bittersweet movie - well worth the popcorn money. I'm not sure the film entirely deserves all the hype and critical acclaim (Hollywood is an incestuous place) but I hope people acknowledge the real breakaway star of the film - Diablo Cody for her sizzling script. I expect great things from her in the future.

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