Just as long as you’re a quirky hipster-teenager, not a single person will be mad at you for being preggo!
Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) isn’t your traditional, normal high school teen in the way that she holds herself. She knows a lot about people, life and society to the point of where people cast her a bit as an “outside”, however though, that doesn’t bother her because she’s just happy being herself, in her own, wide world of quirkiness and faux-clever pop culture references. But now her world is about to be shaken-up a bit now that she’s been impregnated by her best-buddy, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). He clearly has no idea what the hell to do when he hears this news, and neither does she, but she decides not to take “the easy way out”. Thus bringing her to the idea of having the baby, but then giving it right to hopeful parents Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), who have been wanting a baby for quite some time, and have even gone as far as to place ads in the papers. It seems like the right thing for Juno to do, however, she still can’t help herself from causing a bit of ruckus in the meanwhile.
Many people have spoken-out against this movie for being what is clearly a “mainstream attempt” at trying to do a quirky, hipster movie, that you’d most likely see in a small, run-down movie theater with at least five or six other people, and then hear about years later, with it gaining a cult-following and loyal fan-base and such. Reason being, the script by Diablo Cody is filled to the core with numerous amounts of slang, phrases that seem like they’d only come from “hip” people’s mouths and more inside-joke pop culture references than you or I could ever shake a stick at. Hell, it even opens up with a rotoscoped credit-sequence, done to the tunage of Barry Louis Polisar.
If that doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me! I’m hip! I’m cool! I’m “with it”!”, then I don’t know what does.
Usually whenever a movie has me thinking this in the first couple minutes, it’s usually all downhill from there. But that wasn’t the case here. Surprisingly, Cody’s writing began to work more and more, even when more of an onslaught of absolutely random references came into play. However, that also made it so much more entertaining to watch as I could not only find myself laughing, but feel like I’m in the presence of real teenagers who sure, talk a bit funnier and more colorful than you or I, but act and behave as if they were us. Early pregnancy aside, I could still see myself talking, hanging out and getting to know some chick just like Juno, and being picked to pieces for either saying something really dumb, or being intimidated by her presence. But I could say the same thing about meeting Juno, about everybody else here.
The fact is, although its a rather showy script, it’s always believable and never loses that sense that we are placed into a world that exists in the 21st century, with characters who have grown-up on Nickelodeon, Slurpee’s and the almighty “Hamburger Phones”. Yes, they do exist and yes, they are awesome.
But once all of the playful wit of this movie leaves, then comes in the huge heart it has and it really takes you by surprise. One second you could be laughing at how Juno tries to match wits with some older dude about how Iggy Pop is such a bad-ass, to then be soaking your eyes out crying because of some beautiful speech her dad gave to her about finding that one and only special someone and why that does inf act matter. The movie definitely plays with that balance more than a few times than it ought to, but Cody and Reitman seem like they have a perfect idea of when the right time to play a moment up for laughs is, and when it’s the time to start letting the tears flow. More often than not, the former got the best of me, but the latter came in with a surprising thunder and really touched. Especially during the last ten or so minutes when the whole story, all of the characters and subplots, come together and get tied-up in a nice, neat little bow-tie.
How perfect that is to see actually happen in a movie for once.
Of course though, the one’s who really make this movie work so well, just as much as both Reitman and Cody do, is the ensemble cast, mainly Ellen Page in the lead as “anti-hero” of sorts, Juno MacGuff. Page got a lot of praise for this role, and some could say it made her a bon-a-fide “star”, and while I’m not up for a discussion on whether or not that’s fully, entirely true (it isn’t), I will say that Page deserved all of the chatter being made about her because she fits this role like a glove. She’s quick, funny, and always up to say something you don’t expect her to, but she’s never a big meanie. Sure, she can be a bit of a sassy-pup to those who deserve it, but to everybody else around her, you know, the one’s that actually matter and care for her, she’s always kinder to and definitely doesn’t take of them for granted. She’s unpredictable for sure, but she’s never a “bad person” per se, which is what I think makes her so damn likable and watchable in the first place. That, and the fact that she’s edgy, without being overly so. Good for Page though, as I think that she’s a solid actress who is sadly still trying hard to live this iconic-role down. One day, I think, she will. But until then, we have this to adore and appreciate.
Michael Cera also does a nice job as Paulie Bleeker, despite still being in that “George Michael“-frame. However though, he was good at showing what a guy like him would do if he was suddenly thrown into the same situation that he is obviously incapable of handling. Also, the relationship that he and Juno have is a very well-done one which would have made for its own interesting rom-com. Even the friendship Juno has with her bestie, played by Olivia Thirlby, is well-done because she’s just as sassy, if not more than Juno’s snarky-ass, which also makes their time together all the more enjoyable to watch.
But this isn’t just a movie for, and starring all teenagers throughout the world! Believe it or not, there are some performances from adults here, and for the most part, they’re pretty outstanding. As I’ve mentioned before about his one scene, J.K. Simmons is great as Juno’s daddy that isn’t the typical toughened war-vet, hard-ass daddy you usually see in these types of movies. He definitely loves his daughter and accepts her for everything that she is, despite her making one dumb decision and getting pregnant as a result. Still though, he stands by her and wants what’s best, without getting in the way too much. Same for Allison Janney’s step-mom character who isn’t the evil, cackling step-mom that holds everything against her step-daughter for not being biologically related to her. In fact, one could say that she’s more concerned and protecting of Juno, and doesn’t want people bad-mouthing her all because she’s a teenager, who just so happens to be pregnant. Even the two performances from Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are great too, and, believe it or not, would have definitely worked in their own, little movie. However here, they’re both believable as a married-couple that may not be perfect together, but definitely seem to want the same things in life and within each other, even if their vision does get a bit blurred at times.
Mainly though, everybody works perfectly together and makes this something more special than just an-hour-and-a-half rom-com with pregnancy involved somehow. I would have definitely liked to seen more of this cast do what they do best, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when I have a cast that is this good, and given this much meaty-material to work with. If only more ensemble-pieces handled its cast as well as Reitman does. If only.
Consensus: Most will definitely know if Juno is right for them or not, judged solely by the first ten minutes. But if you just so happen to be one of those people that take the bait and enjoy the show, you’ll find yourself not just happy you stuck-through, but ending it all with a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your stomach, like coming-of-age, rom-comers should do.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!