Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff
Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker
Jennifer Garner as Vanessa Loring
Jason Bateman as Mark Loring
Olivia Thirlby as Leah
J.K. Simmons as Mac MacGuff
Allison Janney as Bren
Rainn Wilson as Rollo
92 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language. )
I remember when "Juno" premiered while I was at this year's Toronto Film Festival (some of the most fun I've in the last few years). I couldn't get a ticket-all the shows were sold out-and yet every single person that I met that saw the movie had nothing but good things to say about it. And so I waited-for a few months-until I was finally able to catch a screening of it, and I've glad to say that my contacts in Toronto did not lie. "Juno" is a terrific film, and evidence that the directing debut of Jason Reitman-"Thank You for Smoking"-was far from a fluke. He is certainly one of the best directors out there at the moment, and I am awaiting his third film already. "Juno" opens December 5th in New York and LA, and I'm already expecting it to be as big as Reitman's first film. There will be a reminder next week when it is released.
Ellen Page-who was great in "Hard Candy," a great film, and pretty good in "The Tracey Fragments", a rather so-so movie-plays our hero Juno MacGuff, a smart mouthed and quick paced high school girl of sixteen who has found herself pregnant after a one nighter with her best friend Paulie Bleeker (played by Michael Cera, doing the same character as "Superbad.") After deciding not to get an abortion (the baby already has fingernails, for Christ sake!), she decides to put the baby up for adoption, and she finds the perfect "parents", a suburban couple, Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman.) Over the next nine months Juno begins to have worse problems than a growing stomach, including Paulie finding himself with another girl, and a friendship with Mark that makes him question if he is ready to be a parent or not. Mark finds that he has more in common with Juno than with his wife, and their afternoons spent watching bad 70's horror films and listening to rock music could spell danger for Vanessa's extremely strong desire to be a mother.
I personally think that Ellen Page was perfect in this movie, and its clearly her best work to date. I would even go so far as suggesting that the Academy give her a Best Actress nomination, a bit of a stretch since they usually ignore quirky comedies, despite last years love for the great "Little Miss Sunshine." And the film has a rather fun supporting cast-Cera, Garner, Bateman included, but also J.K Simmons in a rare tender role (usually he plays such angry types), Allison Janney is a great brief role, Rainn Wilson in one hilarious scene at the very beginning, and Olivia Thirlby as Juno's hot cheerleader friend. Thirlby was great in the upcoming March release "Snow Angels," and she is quite good here, almost playing the exact opposite character as in that film. My only quip might be Michael Cera, who I fear will become type casted as that shy, rather nerdy, high school character-only because it doesn't seem like he can play anyone else. Maybe if I hadn't seen "Superbad" already this wouldn't bother me, but I did and nothing can change that.
What makes "Juno" so unique is this world that the character find themselves in-they have created a reality similar to ours but with their own way of doing things, right down to their speech patterns. Juno, as well as her friends, speak in a language all their own-one with certain slang and hesitations, spoken so quick and at such lighting speed that it doesn't feel awkward to our ears-it feels natural. When exclaiming how great something is they say "That's so wizard!" and little rhymes like "What the prognosis, Fertle Myrtle?" or my personal favorite, upon looking at a pregnancy test "Thats no Etch-a-Sketch. That's one doodle you can undo, home skillet." I feel like the script wouldn't have worked the way it did if it weren't for the wonderful acting by every single cast member involved. If I could read Diablo Cody's script before even seeing the film, I might react with confusion and even a little hesitation. Almost as if someone in the sixth grade wrote it. And yet all these actors elevate it to something special and something true. This script has a big chance of winning Best Original Screenplay, but I find "Juno" so good as an actors piece, who manage to take this rather odd script and turn it into something real. Cody did not write Ellen Page's performance, after all. And Reitman manages to create a lovely balance between quirky comedy and human drama, and the third act does have a tone vastly different from what comes before it, but it works and seems natural. Juno changes greatly from scene one to the finale, but there is still a large part of her that remains the same, her same delightful, confused, and worried self-but at least she has happiness to help her with it this time. After "Juno" is released the name Ellen Page will mean a lot more than it did a few months ago, and its not only confirmation that she will be a star, but Reitman is a director to keep your eye on.