Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman
Quirky, yes. But if you can just get through the first ten minutes of the movie you’ll be delighted and impressed at how many things Juno gets right. Written by first-timer Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking), there is a superb balance of comedy, drama, and quirkiness that makes this one of the more memorable comedies of the decade.
Juno (Ellen Page) is a 16-year-old teenager who is sometimes too smart for her own good. She’s independent and opinionated, but she still has the same wants and needs as every human being, especially in high school. As if things aren’t challenging enough for Juno, she discovers she’s pregnant after three pregnancy tests in one day. The baby-daddy is Paulie Bleecker (Michael Cera), who is a soft-spoken and kind boy on the track team. The two of them aren’t necessarily compatible, but they compliment each other rather nicely.
When abortion is crossed off her list, Juno checks out the ads for any couples seeking adoption and meets with Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) to discuss the future of Juno’s baby. She likes the couple and bonds with Mark during their first meeting over music and his Les Paul guitar. But his laid back attitude comes into play later on and jeopardizes the main thing that Vanessa wants: to be a mother.
This is where Juno starts to show its true colors. As the audience, we take this bumpy road with Juno and understand exactly what she’s looking for in her confused, teenage mind. She has all the life questions floating around in her head and she becomes frustrated when she thinks she has the answer, only to be proven wrong. She thinks she knows what love is and she thinks she has the right idea of what happiness is, but it’s difficult to believe when her parents are divorced and her relationship with Paulie is falling apart. That’s why Vanessa and Mark are so important to her, but when their marriage is in trouble she unravels quickly.
Juno is a very special movie because of how normal it feels. But hidden inside this straight-forward tale of a pregnant teen are real characters and real problems that everyone deals with one time or another. Ellen Page creates Juno with a boldness of teenage rebellion, but a softness of a lost girl searching for stability in her life. Her dad Mac (J.K. Simmons) and step-mom Bren (Allison Janney) offer a strong role model team for Juno, but she still seeks more. I must say that Simmons and Janney provide some hilarious lines throughout the film, because I don’t feel Juno’s witty banter to be all that funny.
In the end, this movie is one that has lasted years and still held up extremely well. It’s weird like Napoleon Dynamite, funny as Pretty in Pink, with a whole lot of heart. It’s a film that gets better with multiple viewings because of its carefully detailed performances and direction. If you liked it the first time, you love it the second time and that’s the mark of a lasting film.