Directed by: Jason Reitman. Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner. Runtime: 1h 34 min. Released: December 25, 2007.
For my 29 Days of Romance series, these films are all new watches for me but Juno is really one I’ve always wanted to watch. I’m glad that I found a movie from my watchlist that I liked, because I just loved Juno. (Maybe this is because the romance is secondary. I put it in this series because I could have sworn ‘romance’ was a sub-genre, but apparently it’s just comedy/drama on IMDb… Anyway.)
While I could see why Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris won Best Original Screenplay in its respective Oscar year (2012), I didn’t love it. For the 2008 Oscar year, Diablo Cody’s screenplay for Juno is really deserving of the win. When there’s a line like “they call me a cautionary whale,” that’s a winner.
The film follows the spectacularly offbeat Juno (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. She finds the perfect couple in the PennySaver, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark Loring (Jason Bateman) to adopt her child.
Besides Diablo Cody’s pitch perfect writing that balances funny moments and tear-jerking moments (especially in the third act), this film is also very well-directed by Jason Reitman. The performances he gets from his cast also makes the script shine. Ellen Page gives one of my favourite performances as Juno because the film is my kind-of quirky humour and Page plays it amazingly.
Michael Cera is also great as Paulie Bleeker, the baby’s father. He feels more like a supporting player because this is Juno’s story, and there are points throughout where he’s just not there. I liked the film a lot with him on-screen because the chemistry is good, but any romance is secondary.
J.K. Simmons is a highlight as Juno’s father Mac MacGuff, and he’s my favourite kind-of movie Dad that cracks offbeat jokes and just seems natural and hilarious without even really trying (like Stanley Tucci in Easy A or Will Forte in Booksmart). Jason Bateman’s solid as Mark and he and Juno develop an interesting friendship throughout and their shared love of music is entertaining. By the way, the film’s soundtrack and indie tunes fits the tone and humour like a damn glove.
Jennifer Garner plays Vanessa very well, anxious that Juno might change her mind in giving them the baby because being a mom is what Vanessa has always wanted. The scene where Vanessa feels Juno’s stomach and feels the baby kick is one of the film’s best moments.
At times, Juno has a moment where she considers if what she is doing is the right thing to do, but the screenplay is never challenging in its subject matter of Juno wanting to keep the child. It’s not addressed as much as it could be, but I think that’s fine. Juno’s a sweet and heartwarming comedy that’s more interested in zingy one-liners, sharp dialogue and orange Tic Tac’s than serious conversation. That doesn’t take away from the entertainment value, but you’re not expecting hard-hitting seriousness when there’s a scene that Juno uses a hamburger phone to call about an abortion.
When the film does get closer to serious, there’s still humour. This scene is at one of Juno’s ultrasounds where the technician judges Juno for her teen pregnancy and is relieved she’s giving it up for adoption, as she doesn’t think she can take care of the child. It leans into that conversation but is also strong in its humour when Juno’s stepmom Bren (Allison Janney) stands up for Juno. It’s one of the best character moments in the film for me and another great supporting performance from Janney. Juno’s friend Leah is also a good presence in this film, played by a strong Olivia Thirlby.
I won’t pretend to know anything about teen pregnancy and if this is a realistic depiction of it, but Juno feels real as a character as she uses humour to deflect her situation. When she is more human and let’s her guard down, Page sells it. Her quirkiness is charming and it’s never obnoxious. We spend the perfect amount of time with Juno and it’s a film I’d already love to revisit.