Saturday, February 2, 2008

Juno - mini-review

I finally got to see the multiple Oscar-nominated (Best Film, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director) indie film, Juno. Most of you will already know what it's about: a high school girl gets pregnant after having sex for the first time and decides to give the baby up for adoption. It's so much more than you would ever expect from that terse synopsis.

Juno, played by Ellen Page, is smart, loyal, very funny, edgy in an inoffensive way and while she's amazingly self-possessed for a sixteen year old, she is still a young girl who needs her parents when she gets in over her head. Page is, simply put, wonderful. She never plays it too broadly even when she's funny; she moves easily through the rollercoaster of emotions her character must feel. I haven't seen any of the other films that the Best Actress nominees are in - it looks like terribly tough competition and I can't imagine Page will win - but she's just great here. You like Juno from the start and never waiver from it.

Michael Cera plays her best friend (and baby-daddy) Paulie: Cera is doing the same schtick he did in Superbad and Arrested Development, but it's nice to see someone underplaying rather than munching on the scenery. Another AD alum, Jason Bateman, plays the forced-to-grow-up-before-he-wants-to prospective father. Bateman is not given too much to do but Jennifer Garner, his wife and adoptive mother-to-be, does a very nice job. She's anxious, terrified, on-edge, hopeful, and gains empathy from the audience, and from Juno, as the movie goes on. Juno's parents, played by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, are the only piece that doesn't quite ring right: I find it hard to imagine parents of a pregnant teenager being that cool and understanding about their daughter's predicament. But invoke a little willing suspension of disbelief and enjoy the ride.

Much has been made of - and blogged about elsewhere - the terminally hip script, saying that it verges on too much, too glib, too many pop culture references. The complaint is that no one would talk like that. Well, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer they talked like that, so it's not new. And if you're looking for real life comparisons, I'm pretty certain that a fifteen minute conversation with my smart, funny, amazingly self-possessed teenage cousin Emily could be lifted right out of the Juno script - minus the reverence for late 70s punk music.

Verdict: Go see it if it's still in theaters near you and if it's already gone, move it to the top of your movie queue.

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