Juno – 5 stars (loved it)

I went to a wedding this weekend (Congrats Cal and Amanda!), and I am finally at home and exhausted. But I thought before I drifted off to sleep that I’d try and post something. But my mind has apparently been blown by all of the excitement and fun of the weekened and I couldn’t think of anything to post, so I’m going to post a review of “Juno” that I wrote when the movie came out in 2007. The movie is, in my opinion, an instant classic. The writing (Academy award winning) and direction are phenomenal, and the acting is top-notch from everyone (Ellen Page was nominated for an Oscar). If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and go rent it, put it in your Netflix queue, borrow it from a friend. Whatever you have to do to get your hands on this movie, do it.

 

junoIt begins with a look. Diablo Cody, the first-time screenwriter behind “Juno,” tries to convince the audience that it starts with a chair, but it really begins with a look. The camera fixates on a nervous and naked Paulie Bleaker (Michael Cera), so unsure of himself and the moment, but in the moment nonetheless. The camera then pans to Juno (Ellen Page) with her ever present air of self-confidence, but we can sense there’s something more to this girl than she’s letting on. And with one look at two completely different people, the movie begins to sweep us into the story, and ultimately, into a relationship with the characters that leaves us breathless when it all finally culminates into the happiest, and most satisfying, end of any other movie this year.

The movie is a coming of age story that follows 16-year-old Juno MacGuff for the full term of her accidental pregnancy, brought about by a night of boredom with her best friend, Paulie. Even Juno’s father, Mac MacGuff (J.K. Simmons) is surprised that Bleaker “had it in him.” Juno explores the option of an abortion but is turned away after discovering that babies grow fingernails in the womb. Her stepmom, Bren (Allison Janney), is a “nail technician.” Realizing that she’s too young to raise a child, Juno and gal-pal Leah (Olivia Thirby) take to the Penny Saver to seek out an adoptive couple.

Having formulated a 16-year-old’s idea of a plan to handle a pregnancy, Juno reveals to her parents that she is pregnant. This scene reveals the only parents in cinematic history that don’t unleash a tidal wave of anger on their teenage daughter, but rather, a set of parents that every teenager wishes they had growing up. The realism is there, however. They are upset and disappointed, but they care. The realism probably ends with how quickly they recover from the shock and begin to trade quick quips regarding their initial hopes that Juno had developed a drug addiction.

I do appreciate the manner in which Diablo Cody presented Bren and Mac. Even if you didn’t have parents like them, you probably had friends that did. It’s refreshing to see someone avoid the all-too easy and all-too common “troubled teen vs. strict parents” theme.

Mac decides to go with Juno to meet the adoptive parents, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring, in a scene much better seen firsthand than read about secondhand. Mark and Vanessa are the stereotypical young, yuppie couple. Vanessa badly wants children, and Mark badly wants to be a rock star (a rebel in his own home), but has to settle for writing jingles. Vanessa is the exact opposite of Juno, but Mark hits a note with Juno when he discovers her love of slasher movies and Les Paul guitars. What quickly develops into a friendship, just as quickly dissolves when Mark tells Juno something she doesn’t want to hear (also better seen than read).

Vanessa and Juno, however, share an intimate moment in a mall in which Jennifer Garner shines. It’s a small moment in a film that stands on its comedic flare, but it’s the small moments that make this film. They are dotted throughout, and always, without exception, at the right time.

The direction of Jason Reitman had as much do with that as Diablo Cody did. There isn’t a single scene that doesn’t work or flow the way it should. The performances of everyone in the film keep it on the right side of cheesy, as well. Not many people can pull off a line like, “Honest to blog!” and get away with it. Not to mention, Ellen Page delivers a performance that may very well earn her an Oscar nomination.

But more than anything, for me, it’s about the looks. Every little moment, scratch that, every single scene, has something more brewing under the surface. Often you can’t tell it’s there amidst the rapid-fire dialogue, but you can feel it in the characters’ faces. Take, for instance, the closing scene.

Juno has gone from Autumn to Spring and has changed as much and as quickly as the passing seasons. She’s no longer the girl that didn’t “know what kind of girl” she was. She and Paulie are together, playing their guitars, and singing to each other. Jason Reitman puts us at the center of the scene and slowly pans out, reminding us that this is their moment, and it’s our turn to look at them. Finally together. Finally themselves. It ends with a look.

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 96 minutes

Starring: Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff); Michael Cera (Paulie Bleeker); Jennifer Garner (Vanessa Loring); Jason Bateman (Mark Loring); Allison Janney (Bren MacGuff); J.K. Simmons (Mac MacGuff)

Directed by: Jason Reitman; written by Diablo Cody; produced by Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick, and Russell Smith. A Fox Searchlight release.

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~ by reeltoreel on June 28, 2009.

3 Responses to “Juno – 5 stars (loved it)”

  1. A lot of people tried to tell me that Ellen Page didn’t deserve her Oscar nomination for “Juno.” Bull. She earned it, alright, by giving us a character who was funny and vulnerable at the same time. It’s hard enough to do comedy, but adding the vulnerability? That takes real talent. I can’t wait to see where Ellen Page’s career goes after this.

    M. Carter at the Movies

    • Absolutely. She was hilarious, witty, quick, and intelligent (something you don’t see from characters in most comedies). She had some great moments in the movie. The scene in the mall with Jennifer Garner, the scene when she pulls her van to the side of the road and cries, when she tells her parents that she’s pregnant…Yeah, she was great in it.

  2. […] No Country for Old Men and Juno were made in the same year and you couldn’t get 2 movies more different from each other – a psychopathic serial killer on the prowl in one and a 16 year old snarky hipster pregnant girl in the other. While they differed a great deal, they were 2 of the best films of 2007 (and now, looking back, the 2000s). Jason Reitman’s second feature film was a great one (and his newest is pretty darn good, too) with a smoking hot screenplay by Diablo Cody that sizzled with enough one-liners to make even Anton Chigurh crack a smile. Check out my full review here.  […]

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