Hey Brodie Fanns!
Here’s Juno. Charlie Wilson’s War to follow soon enough.
Drawing some warranted comparisons to June’s Knocked Up in it’s addressing of an unwanted pregnancy, Juno differs in its more delicate handling of the subject matter, and by looking at it through the scope of the woman’s eyes. It’s just as whip-smart funny, but holds off on the vulgar, to create a touching, poignant and often times hilarious take on teenage pregnancy.
After a random tryst with her maybe boyfriend (the official status of their relationship isn’t made entirely clear from the get go), 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) keeps turning up positive on the three pregnancy tests she commandeers from a local mini-mart. As one can imagine, it’s not exactly the most welcome news for her, her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) or Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), the aforementioned boyfriend. In fact, the only people who seem to get a kick out of it are her best friend Leah (Olivia Thilby) and the couple who has their hopes set on adopting Juno’s baby, Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Juno just wants to get the thing over with so she can go on with her life. But the bonds she forms with both her parents and the Lorings make the ordeal into something more than she can probably handle.
As Juno, 20-year-old Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand), is able to step away from playing the stereotypical pregnant woman in distress and bring a fascinating third dimension to, and I say this with all due respect Katherine Heigl, as she was very good in her film, a character type who is generally relegated to stereotypes, that of a single, pregnant female. Some of the more die hard of film buffs took notice of young Ellen two years ago in Hard Candy, but with the critical attention she’s getting with this film, and her growing fan base, she should have no trouble making the transition from indie darling to big time leading lady. I would love to see that happen, as she’s a very talented young woman who has a knack for picking good scripts.
To help her bring this script alive, she has an amazing supporting cast, and this film would be lost without them. Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad) plays the unsure, nervous boyfriend to perfection and his own “aw shucks” sweetly, naïve personality lends itself to the character just magnificently. Simmons (Spider-Man 1-3, The Closer) finally finds THE role. He’ll always be remembered for his work in the Spider-Man franchise, but this is the role he was meant to play. The only way it would have been a more perfect fit for him is if the film was based on a true story, and he was the actual guy the story was based on.
Director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman) made an impact with his 2005 feature film debut Thank You for Smoking and continues his impressive declaration that he is his own talent, as opposed to making it big by name dropping his dad. He’s got immeasurable chops and I can’t wait to see his future works, of which there aren’t any currently in the works.
But let’s give credit where credit is due: rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody. She crafted an engrossing tale of teenage angst, minus all the mindless trappings and clichés that accompany your typical 21st century teen angst film. She threw in some fascinating layers to each of the characters, hinting at them through out the script, but never making the mistake of delving too far into them. After all, the movie is called Juno for a reason, it’s about Juno. It’s not about Mike and Vanessa, or Paulie and Leah, or Mac and Bren (Juno’s parents). It’s about Juno, and that’s the thrust, but each character is given a rich and interesting backstory we only get glimpses of. And I want to commend her for exploring the issue of abortion in a very tactful and non-political way. Had she handled the issue wrong, it could have set the wrong tone for the film, but she handled it in a very mature manner.
The only real drawback is the sometimes overtly and overly trite and contrived “hipster” jargon. The dialog approaches near Dawson’s Creek-ian levels of pretentiousness and unbelievability for high school students. Is she hinting that they are smarter than we give them credit for? And if so, why does Leah provide us with one of the more cringe-worthy pieces of dialog in recent cinematic history with “Swear to blog?” Get it? Swear to blog? Blog in place of god. I don’t get it either. I’m five years removed from high school. Is this how they talk now a days? OH! And what the hell is with these indie movies trying to out do each other with finding the most obscure indie artists for the characters to be huge fans of? Fuck you, I know I ended that on a preposition. But let’s face it. Kamya Dawson… sucks.
Aside from those minor annoyances, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this film and its characters.