After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
David O. Russell
Robert De Niro
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
Following all of the hype, it was impossible for me to not want to see Juno. Everyone has raved about it for months, and I waited patiently for it to be released somewhere nearby. And the wait definitely made it worthwhile.
Juno chronicles the story of the titular sixteen-year-old girl (played by Ellen Page), and the fallout of her accidental pregnancy. After deciding to not have an abortion, Juno decides that she will give the baby up for adoption to would-be parents Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) after finding an ad in the local classified section of the newspaper.
It may not sound like a deep film, but right from moment one, the film draws you into Juno's bizarre world of teenage angst and wonderment. It progresses through the stages of her pregnancy (and the seasons that pass), and through the various problems and issues that arise as a result of the pregnancy.
This is aided almost exclusively by the commanding presence of Page. Her work here is simply astounding, and watching her mature as the film goes on is the stuff of movie magic. She plays Juno with a chip on her shoulder, and a keen sense of tongue in cheek. She is very in tune with the role, and even though it is not wholly original, she makes it her own and gives it a grand sense of earnestness (and pathos when needed). She plays it even better during the more hormonal aspects of the pregnancy, and she makes her undeniable mark on the movie-going public as she does. After seeing her intense, calculating and downright terrifying work in Hard Candy, I knew that she would be a presence to be reckoned with. And in seeing Juno, I now know that she truly will continue to grow into a great actress.
Supporting turns from just about everyone only further complement Page's terrific acting. Garner and Bateman, while not as well written as Page, do great as the would-be adoptive parents. While Bateman taps into his not so over-the-top side (which he used to his great advantage in scene-stealing roles in Smokin' Aces and The Ex), and gives a great character performance, Garner does even better as the over-domineering wife. She gives the role a slightly creepy tinge in a few cases, but for the most part, delivers one of her best performances. While not as commanding as he was in Superbad, Michael Cera, as the father of Juno's baby, gives his character a glossy sense of naivety as the film begins, but slowly falls into a grander sense of geeky goodness as the film goes on. His shy teenage chemistry with Page is astounding, and helps give the film its greatest moments of heartfelt drama. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney round out the cast, lending the film some of its deeply funny and dramatic moments as Juno's parents, and relative newcomer Olivia Thirlby does very well as Juno's best friend.
But for how great the cast was, what I was really anticipating was the screenplay, by current sensation Diablo Cody. I was a little apprehensive at wanting to jump on the bandwagon of praising her, but the script is truly wonderful. While the start of the film feels a little forced with its witty and sarcastic banter, the film gradually progresses into a very fair balance of hilarity and drama. Its gradual depth does not go unnoticed, and as the film packs into its most dramatic scenes, it really becomes apparent that Cody has a great sense of how to write really well. First time screenwriters (or even screen writing hopefuls) can take notes in how well expressed the wording is here (and how obscure pop culture references can still be funny), and just how greatly written the film is. When dialogue comes so natural to some of these characters, it becomes very obvious that the writer knows what they are doing. If she keeps up like this, than I think she could truly be the prodigy that everyone is making her out to be (although Jennifer's Body really does not sound like a step in the right direction).
I think what only slows the film down is the near forced relationship between Page and Bateman that grows as the film goes on. I understand its importance to the film and understand why it is here, but I just think they play it a little too loosely and way too longish to make it feel as worthwhile as it needs to be. The two work off of each other well, yes (although not nearly as well as Page and Cera, or even Bateman and Garner), but the dialogue and scenes between them just sound like an afterthought, and do not seem in sync with the rest of the film. They have the humour, they have the references (maybe a few too many), but they just do not jive nearly as solidly as they should. Maybe a little less focus on these scenes, and more with the likes of Cera (who is not underused, but probably could have been used a bit more) or Simmons or Thrilby (who are not used nearly enough) could have helped make the movie even better than it already is.
Juno is not perfect, but it is heartwarming and bittersweet all the same. I laughed and almost got choked up by how exquisitely written and how superbly acted the film was. Page is marvellous in the lead role, and Cody just might be on the right path to be true greatness. If only all small Indies could be nearly as memorable or nearly as astonishing as this one is. An obvious candidate for being one of the best (and funniest) films of the year.
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