Juno


Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by:

Diablo Cody

Starring:

Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons

Released: January 17, 2008
Grade: A+

I haven’t dished out an A+ grading in 15 months.  The streak is now over thanks to the arrival of Juno.  Half way through, I knew that this witty black comedy was the best thing I’d seen in a long time.

As the title suggests, it all revolves around Juno MacGuff (Page).  She’s a 16-year-old high school student who has found out that she’s pregnant.  It’s not good news for Juno as a baby is the last thing she wants.  The father is a shy kid from school by the name of Paulie Bleeker (Cera).  They’ve been good friends for a long time.  A night of foolish experimentation has seen them end up in this position.

After giving it some thought, Juno decides against having an abortion.  She tells a good friend that she “could like have this baby and give it to someone who like totally needs it”.  Juno starts flipping through the newspaper (yep, there are ads for prospective parents) and finds the photo of a happy, young couple who are looking to adopt.

Before going to visit them, it’s time to break the news to her parents first (Simmons and Janney).  They’re stunned by the news but don’t “fly off the handle” like you’d expect.  They want to help Juno deal with her situation as best as possible.  Her dad goes with her to meet Mark (Bateman) and Vanessa (Garner), the couple she found in the newspaper.  They’re not quite what Juno expected but she’s more than happy to give them her baby.  The legal paperwork is prepared and the wheels are in motion…

Juno takes a few interesting twists and turns which I’ll allow you to discover for yourself.  It has been incredibly well written by 29-year-old Diablo Cody.  I’m impressed that someone so young has managed to get a screenplay off the ground.  Her success is well deserved though and the fact that the film was made is a testament to her initial script.  It’s intelligent and insightful.

The director is 30-year-old Jason Reitman who made another great black comedy in 2005, Thank You For Smoking.  Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, the man behind such great films as Stripes and Ghost Busters).  I guess comedy is in their blood.

Between them, Cody and Reitman have made one hell of a movie.  There’s a perfect balance of funny moments and serious moments.  They have told Juno’s story in a charming, likeable manner.  Every character is memorable and they all have their own quirks and insecurities.  Not a single scene is wasted.

The star of the film is 20-year-old Ellen Page (Hard Candy).  She’s certain to earn an Academy Award nomination for best actress.  I loved her openness and the emotionless, sarcastic manner with which she delivers so many of her lines.  It brought back memories of Thora Birch in Ghost World (a favourite black comedy of mine).  There’s more to Page’s character however and she becomes somewhat uncertain of herself in the lead up to the film’s finale.  Juno is a great character and Page has nailed the role.

My appreciation for this movie is shared by many others.  When it premiered at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival (the most important festival in the world), it finished 2nd in the audience vote.  The buzz from Toronto has seen the film grow in stature and there’s a possibility it could earn a best picture nomination at the upcoming Oscars.  It was made for a mere $2.5m and has become this year’s “little film that could”.  My favourite critic, Roger Ebert, has honoured it by naming it his best of 2007.

In this review, I’ve mentioned the age of the writer, director and lead actor.  They’re all younger than me (I’m 30).  Have I missed my opportunity to make it in Hollywood?  Or are Cody, Reitman and Page just incredibly talented craftspeople ahead of their time?  I think it’s the later.