Between Juno and the DVD of Knocked Up, I’ve seen more than my fair share of women peeing lately. That awkward moment out of the way, I loved Juno. It is a heart-warming, funny, earnest and pitch perfect gem of a movie. Seeing this movie just 24 hours after enduring Bee Movie just emphasizes how good it really is.
If you’ve even seen a poster, you know the story. 16-year-old Juno, played by Ellen Page, gets pregnant and hilarity, awkwardness, dirty looks and heart warming ensues. This isn’t just a teenage version of Knocked Up (although that film was sweet and touching in it’s own way). It’s smart, contains substantially less profanity, and feels like it really could happen.
The superb cast rounded out by Michael Cera (Paul, the father of Juno’s child), J.K. Simmons (Juno’s father) and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the prospective adoptive parents, make this movie work.
Ellen Page is quirky but adorable. Judging by the way she talks and acts in real life, she was born for this role. She makes is it easy to see why Paulie (and the dumb jock who makes fun of her) are both smitten, and she delivers more razor-sharp one-liners (check out the video below for a taste) than you can shake a stick at. (Wow, two cliches in one clause… I’m on a roll!)
No one could play the geeky cross country runner Paulie Bleeker like Cera, who plays a slightly more mature if more shy version of George Michael Bluth from Arrested Development. He plays the awkward but earnest guy better than anyone I can imagine, and that includes my own perception of myself sometimes. Whether it’s in Arrested Development, Super Bad or Juno, he nails it. I fear he is going to be typecast, but that’s just a risk we’re all going to have to take.
The same high praise goes for Mr. Simmons who hits a home run just as he did Thank You for Smoking and the Spider-Man Movies. I could sit and just watch film of him reading the newspaper out loud and thoroughly enjoy it.
As much as I love him, Jason Bateman (also of Arrested Development) does a fantastic job of behaving like a massive tool and although Jennifer Garner’s character gets on your nerves at the beginning, you grow to like her and want her to be happy.
The writer, Diablo Cody (seriously, Diablo?), does a marvelous job of “keeping it real” without succumbing to cliches. (SPOILERS AHEAD.) Juno’s father and step-mother, although not exactly thrilled with the news (“I was hoping she was expelled, maybe a DUI. Anything but this.”) They are both very supportive and loving. It would have been so easy to cut the step-mother out the stereotypical “wicked” cloth, but she supports and defends Juno to a fault. Juno’s best friend, a picture-perfect cheerleader, also should have been a two-timing witch according to typical movie formulas but she is a genuine, helpful friend. We expect Juno, strong young woman that she is, to go it alone without any support, but instead she has a pretty solid support structure. Paulie is supposed to get angry with Juno at some point in the movie only to rush in during the delivery help Juno because her step-mother and father are tied up in traffic but he doesn’t and they don’t. Cody gets bonus points for giving Juno a hamburger phone.
I hate to keep bringing up Knocked Up, but but b lkj but but Juno and it both bring about a discussion of abortion. In KU, Allison decides to keep the baby because she sees the heartbeat and maybe perhaps as an act of rebellion against her mother (I just watched Judd Apatow’s commentary). Juno actually takes steps toward abortion but is put off by the depressing decor (and clientele) of the clinic (honestly, is that the best word?) and the knowledge that the little “sea monkey” inside her had fingernails. The knowledge that a fetus has a beating heart would be enough for me but wow, the fingernail thing really gets you for some reason or another. (Anatomically, I’m not sure if that’s true about the un-born baby having fingernails. It seems to me that would be one of the last things to develop.) Judd Apatow said he isn’t necessarily for or against abortion (or “schma–schmortion“), just that there wouldn’t be a movie unless she kept the baby. I don’t know Ms. Cody’s personal feelings either, but I can’t help but pray these two movies, in their own, weird ways, convince at least one woman to save the life inside her. Jamie Lynn Spears was photographed leaving Juno the day before she dropped her bombshell on the world (I’m extremely embarrassed I know that) and you can’t help but wonder if that was a tipping point for debate about keeping the baby.
The credits and soundtrack both have a Napoleon Dynamite feel which isn’t surprising considering they’re both Fox Searchlight Films (as are Garden State, Little Miss Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking, Waitress, The Darjeeling Limited and The Namesake). God bless you, Fox Searchlight.
Also, sit down and watch these hilarious PSA’s with Cera and Bateman.