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Starring: Ellen Page, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Thirlby

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Produced by: Mason Novick, Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith, John Malkovich

Written by: Diablo Cody

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures


As seen at AFI Fest 2007:

     While I am not about to proclaim that Juno is the masterpiece and surefire Oscar-contender that many reported to have seen at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, I am certainly willing to champion it as both a charmingly zany comedy and a fittingly poignant drama. Director Jason Reitman also helmed last year’s Thank You for Smoking and, while Juno is much broader in its approach than that pointed satire was, the filmmaker has noticeably retained every bit of his previously-seen socially-observant style with this effort. In addition, he has matured substantially, this time injecting his story with a resonant understanding of human-nature that is as warmly uplifting as it is bitterly tragic.

     Ellen Page stars as Juno MacGuff, a quirkily identifiable misfit of a teenager who, in the film’s opening scenes, discovers that she is pregnant. Juno doesn’t react to the revelation with the outburst of visible emotional duress that one would expect to find in a girl of her age. She thinks herself to be above that, and only expresses such anguish on the inside. Externally, Juno only shows nonchalant dismay in her discovery, recanting to the talky convenience store clerk who sold her the pregnancy-test (Rainn Wilson), “little pink plus-sign is so unholy.”

     After ruling out the possibility of having an abortion when she realizes just how despondent the employees of the local Planned Parenthood-like clinic are, Juno realizes that she must inform her father (J.K. Simmons) and step-mother (Alison Janney) of the presence of her newly acquired, unborn roommate. “Who’s the father?” her dad questions in disbelief, only leaving Juno even more humiliated when she informs him that the boy is Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), the high school’s resident nerd of a track-star. Paulie still sleeps in a kiddy car-bed and applies antiperspirant to his thighs each morning to prevent him from sweating as he runs, hardly constituting “father” material. (Still, he and Juno share a connection that is bittersweet and wonderful in its own way.) Juno ultimately resorts to looking for parents to adopt the child in the local Pennysaver, where she finds Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who appear to be a modern Stepford Couple. Despite not being able to conceive a baby of their own, Vanessa is determined to raise a child and Mark is, well, along for the ride.

     As comedic as Juno sometimes is, the main purpose of Diablo Cody’s screenplay (her first) is not to bombard the viewer with fits of laughter. In fact, most of the humor naturally derives itself from the offbeat personalities of the characters, which come across so genuinely that it is impossible to of think them as being gimmicky. First and foremost, this film functions as a beautiful tale about the human condition. Its best moments come as the characters realize the people that they need to become when confronted with the daunting situations that the script lays before them. Most notably, Cody’s treatment of Mark and Vanessa’s marital problems is particularly accomplished in this regard.

     Whether she wins the Oscar or not, Ellen Page certainly gives an extraordinary performance in the film’s title role. As off-the-wall as Juno’s personality and actions may strike us, Page ensures that we are always able to observe a hint of ourselves in the character. If there has been a more sympathetic protagonist than Juno MacGruff in a movie released this year, I haven’t seen it. Also providing a wonderfully accomplished performance in the film is Jennifer Garner, who here continues her recent push to take on more challenging material than she is typically thought of tackling. Garner injects strong empathy into Vanessa throughout, which is vital to the audience’s involvement in the character’s beautiful third-act transformation. Jason Bateman and Michael Cera also have their charms as Mark and Paulie, respectively, but they never pretend to attempt to find the level of emotional complexity that Page and Garner do.

     Juno’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, hopes that the movie will acquire the widespread commercial success of their 2006 pet-project, Little Miss Sunshine. While I think that the latter film is a more accomplished work, I hope that Juno is able to find the same audience regardless of this. Juno is a wonderful little film that functions beautifully as a crowd-pleaser, but carries far more emotional resonance than the average release in the genre does. I recommend it to virtually every filmgoer who seeks a rewarding time at The Movies.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 11.22.2007

Screened on: 11.5.2007 at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, CA.


Juno is rated PG-13 and runs 91 minutes.

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