Movie Review: Juno

Mood: Cheering for Juno

I received an unexpected invitation last week to take advantage of Tight-Arse Tuesday at the movies. The movie of choice was the recently opened Juno.

Below is the synopsis from the official website:

Meet Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) – a confidently frank teenage girl who calls the shots with a nonchalant cool and an effortless attitude as she journeys through an emotional nine-month adventure into adulthood. Quick witted and distinctively unique, Juno walks Dancing Elk High’s halls to her own tune – preferably anything by The Stooges, but underneath her tough no nonsense exterior is just a teenage girl trying to figure it all out.

While most girls at Dancing Elk are updating their MySpace page or shopping at the mall, Juno is a whip-smart Minnesota teen living by her own rules. A typically boring afternoon became anything but when Juno decides to have sex with the charmingly unassuming Bleeker (Michael Cera). Face with an unplanned pregnancy, she and best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) hatch a plan to find Juno’s unborn baby the perfect set of parents courtesy of the local Penny Saver. They set their sights on Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), an affluent suburban couple who are longing to adopt their first child. Luckily, Juno has the support of her dad and stepmother (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney). After the initial shock that their daughter has been sexually active with the unlikely "virile" Bleeker, the family bands together to help Juno. Dad Mac accompanies Juno to size up the prospective adoptive parents to make sure they are not a couple of "wing nuts" while stepmother Bren provides emotional support as Juno fights the prejudices of underage pregnancy. While fall becomes winter and winter turns to spring, Juno’s physical changes mirrors her personal growth while the veneer of Mark and Vanessa’s idyllic life starts to show signs of cracking. With a fearless intellect far removed from the usual teen angst, Juno conquers her problems head-on, displaying a youthful exuberance both smart and unexpected.

The ensemble cast was perfect in every way. The taboo subject of unprotected sex resulting in an unplanned teenage pregnancy could so easily have been translated to "small town white trash", but the well written script made me want to hug all the characters for the high level of maturity in dealing with the problems their own way, resulting in a win-win outcome. Each cast member gave the same understated treatment to their parts which made the movie all the more poignant.

Ellen Page was stunningly superb as Juno. Although Juno seemed flippant at times towards her pregnancy and her image at school, Page was able to show the vulnerable side of Juno – the scared teenager who wasn’t always sure who she was or where she stood in life. Page’s portrayal of a young woman taking the delicate steps towards adulthood was achingly tender. Her relationships with the other characters were unpretentious and precocious, be it with her father, her stepmother, the adoptive parents, her best friend, or her soul mate. Page is definitely well deserving of all the accolades she has been receiving since the movie’s release.

Michael Cera was charming as the young father of the baby who wasn’t really as clueless as Juno made him out to be. Bleeker understood and never questioned Juno’s decision about the baby – his unwavering support of her decision seemed to mask the fear of the unknown should Juno had made other decisions. Cera maintained an aura of innocence about him throughout the movie, from the teenager being told he had fathered a baby, to navigating the awkward journey in defining his relationship with Juno, to his wordless actions chocked with emotions at the hospital. Everything combined just made him so adorable.

Jennifer Garner was heartbreakingly honest as the woman desperate to adopt a baby, both for herself and in a last bid attempt to salvage her marriage. You could almost smell her desperation as she tried to impress Juno at every turn, and I cried for her in the mall scene, when she accidentally bumped into Juno at the mall and was asked to speak to the unborn child. The pain etched on her face was so real, it really tugged at my heartstrings.

Allison Janney was in fine form as Juno’s stepmother, who gave us a glimpse of some of the real sacrifices and compromises a mother was willing to go through for her kids, whether she gave birth to them or not. Watch out for the ultrasound scene, where Janney gives the ultrasound tech a piece of her mind for stepping out of line.

J.K. Simmons and Jason Bateman were also terrific as the "fathers" in the movie – Juno’s father and Juno’s baby’s adoptive father respectively. Here, we were shown the different ends of the spectrum as far as a man dealing with fatherhood is concerned – one who was completely accepting of all the consequences and responsibilities of being a father, and the other who was desperately trying to come to terms with the realities of fatherhood before time ran out in more ways than one.

Rating:

I loved this movie. I can’t say enough nice things about this movie. I just wish there were more movies like this one – refreshing, precocious and unpretentious. This really is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

And now, continuing on my Six Degrees game, from Enchanted to Juno, there are 2 direct links:

1. Amy Adams was in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) with Allison Janney; and
2. James Marsden was in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) with Ellen Page.

And Bacon numbers:

Ellen Page has a Bacon number of 2.
* Ellen Page was in Wilby Wonderful (2004) with Maury Chaykin.
* Maury Chaykin was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Michael Cera has a Bacon number of 2.
* Michael Cera was in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) with Anna Silk.
* Anna Silk was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Jason Bateman has a Bacon number of 2.
* Jason Bateman was in Sol Goode (2001) with Octavia Spencer.
* Octavia Spencer was in Beauty Shop (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Jennifer Garner has a Bacon number of 2.
* Jennifer Garner (I) was in Catch and Release (2006/II) with Gabrielle Rose.
* Gabrielle Rose was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon.

Today’s Tuesday, and there has been another offer to accompany someone to the flicks. The tentative plan is to see Charlie Wilson’s War, so stay tuned for the review.

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3 responses to “Movie Review: Juno

  1. It is funny, up until recently ALL i have read have been glowing reviews of Juno, all the award nominations etc. And then in the last 2, 3 days, i have seen a number of reviews that lambast the script as trying to hard to be the Clueless of 2008, the cliquie buzzword teen langauge etc.
     
    Me – i dont care either way, i want to see this movie and i will see this movie! 😀
     
    It is just odd how the shift just happened in a snap, almost like reviewers suddenly decided to be nasty overnight, they all got together in thier reviewing club and drank too much nasty cheap something and sharpened their talons.

  2. Methinks the bad reviews have come off the back of some plagarism allegations.  Tall poppy syndrome, sour grapes and the like – the reviewers are probably frustrated screenwrights who have gotten nowhere with their masterpieces, and along comes some little girl who listed her highest achievements as writing a blog and a book about her year as "an unlikely stripper".
     
    In any case, the film is terrific and you will love it.  I seem to have picked up a regular movie companion on Tuesday nights, but am happy to bring him along to the Ritz for a Saturday movie session and some yummy noodles!

  3. And i saw this on Friday night and it was FABULOUS!!!!

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