Sunday, March 21, 2010

Archive: 'Juno'

Movie Review
Juno (2007)

"Juno" is becoming more and more the "Little Miss Sunshine" of this year; it's the little movie that could and one that you'll want to hug. Its popularity is growing immensely and with good reason. This comedy is indie all around from the opening credits to the songs, especially, by Kimya Dawson from The Moldy Peaches. It also happens to be very funny and very touching from start to finish. There's not one spoiled or missed moment within a screenplay that is, in a word, perfect. With a movie this warm-hearted and sweet, it can't help but be at the top of the year's best films.

"It all started with a chair," says Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), the wise-cracking and extremely likable 16-year-old teen. It's a chair on which she and her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), decide to engage in a risky experiment that ultimately gets Juno pregnant. After a scary trip to an abortion clinic, Juno decides to have the baby and give it away to a couple who really wants it. Her friend Leah convinces her to check the Penny Saver for adoptive parents. The movie transcends the genre of the teenage comedy, making sure to shatter all of the usual stereotypes. This is first apparent when Juno reveals the news to her parents. They are warmer, brighter, and more sharply observant and humorous than any other parents you'll ever meet in a movie. Juno's step-mother, Bren (Allison Janney), and father, Mac (J.K. Simmons), have reactions that are more human than you would expect. Upon hearing Paulie is the father, Mac turns to Bren and mumbles, "I didn't know he had it in him."

Mac goes with Juno to meet the potential adoptive parents out in the suburbs. Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) is consumed in desperately wanting a child, while Mark (Jason Bateman) seems to not have yet given up being a child. During the meeting, Juno takes a special interest in the couple; she likes Mark, especially, as he has an interest in playing guitar, watching old horror films, and listening to weird music. While stopping by to deliver pictures from the ultrasound, Juno sits and simply hangs out with Mark while Vanessa's at work. As Juno continues to get closer with her adoptive parents, this relationship adds an intriguing dynamic to the story.

Director Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") and first-time stripper-turned-writer Diablo Cody have collaborated to craft a movie that slowly reveals surprises, which I simply cannot go on to spoil. These surprises are not only in plot, but also in rich character development. We follow Juno along her nine-month journey in segments indicated by change of the season, with the consistency of Bleaker's high school cross-country team running past each time. Through this period, hidden feelings come to light and themes about certain truths in life are presented.

A most darling moment arises when Juno sits down with Mac to discuss the probability of two people loving each other and staying together forever. Another is when Juno bumps into Vanessa at the mall and insists that she talk to her belly. And then there are the times of honest humor, which reveal thoughts we were already thinking to ourselves, including when Bren tells off the ultrasound technician.

"Juno" is marked by whip-smart dialogue that is quirky and intelligent. Most of all, though, it is highlighted by a magnificent performance from 20-year-old Ellen Page who, without a doubt, deserves an award for Best Actress. She stands out next to Michael Cera's still enjoyably boyish presence and inexplicable ability to be awkward in any situation. As Juno, she treats her pregnancy and enlarged belly as a mere inconvenience, cracking jokes about it all the way. Gradually, though, we see what lies beneath her witty exterior, and Page remarkably shows us a girl that we immediately fall in love with. Ellen Page is brilliant, creating a character we won't soon forget. It's certainly a challenge to make an Oscar-worthy comedy, and that's exactly what "Juno" succeeds to be.

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