With a job traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham enjoys his life living out of a suitcase, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a new hire and a potential love interest.
A tale told over four seasons, starting in autumn when Juno, a 16-year-old high-school junior in Minnesota, discovers she's pregnant after one event in a chair with her best friend, Bleeker. In the waiting room of an abortion clinic, the quirky and whip-sharp Juno decides to give birth and to place the child with an adoptive couple. She finds one in the PennySaver personals, contacts them, tells her dad and step-mother, and carries on with school. The chosen parents, upscale yuppies (one of whom is cool and laid back, the other meticulous and uptight), meet Juno, sign papers, and the year unfolds. Will Juno's plan work, can she improvise, and what about Bleeker? Written by
The thing that separates "Juno" from so many other films about teen pregnancy is that, in this case, the 16-year-old who finds herself in that predicament refuses to become a victim of her circumstances. From the moment she confirms the unwelcome news, Juno studies her options - abortion, raising the child as a single teen parent, adoption - then takes matters into her own hands. Like the Roman goddess who is her namesake, Juno is a bright, often sharp-tongued individual who prides herself on her observant cynicism and her way with a sarcastic quip. However, she's not above appealing to the adults in her life when the problems of the world get to be too much for her (though, in some cases, the grownups are coping with more serious issues than she is). Yet, Juno makes certain that it is she and she alone who will have the final say when it comes to determining the course of her own future and that of her child.
"Juno" is that rare low-budget, independent feature that finds unexpected success in the mainstream by striking a chord of recognition in audiences across the demographic spectrum. First-time screenwriter Diablo Cody hits pay dirt with a clear-eyed, largely unsentimental script that is not afraid to go off in unexpected and interesting directions and that avoids patronizing its Middle American characters. Juno's father and stepmother manage to take the news in stride, while the yuppie couple Juno alights on to be the child's adoptive parents are given a depth and complexity far beyond what a lesser writer might have afforded them. Director Jason Reitman keeps the quirkiness to a minimum and allows the scenes to play out in a naturalistic, unhurried way. Confident in the strength and appeal of his material, he lets the gentle human comedy speak for itself.
In a star-making turn, young Ellen Page takes a daring approach to her character, often bringing Juno right to the brink of un-likability, then pulling back at just the crucial moment, making us see how utterly likable she truly is. As the child's father, Michael Cera is virtually the same lovably passive nerd we found so endearing in "Superbad," while J.K. Simmons and especially Allison Janney give rich shadings to Juno's supportive parents. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner also make their mark as the couple who post their picture in the "baby wanted" section of the local throwaway.
"Juno" faces the downside of any independent film that unexpectedly finds itself ripped from the confines of the art houses and suddenly duking it out at the multiplexes with all those high-budget, high-octane, testosterone-laden blockbusters - namely the risk of over-inflated expectations. Thus, my advice is to look beyond all the hype and box office records and simply let "Juno" sneak up on and take a hold of you in its own quiet, inimitable fashion. I think it works best that way.
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