29 Days of Romance, Review #12: Juno (2007)

29 Days of Romance, Review #12: Juno (2007)
Juno poster
IMDb

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.

Juno article
Ellen Page in Juno. (IMDb)

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.

Score: 90/100

This is the End (2013)

This is the EndRelease Date: June 12, 2013

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill

Runtime: 107 min

Hollywood is obsessed with a lot of things. One of their current obsessions is the apocalypse. Mostly because, if we survived 2012, why not, right? This is the End is summer 2013’s second apocalyptic movie (or first if you don’t really count After Earth), and it’s a comedy that feels completely fresh. It’s based on Jason Stone’s short film entitled “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse”, set on an ordinary night in Los Angeles.

Many celebrities including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, and Emma Watson, amongst so many other cameos, are partying it up at James Franco’s mansion. They’re having a good time, drinkin’ beer, abusing cocaine (if Michael Cera doesn’t hog it all), joking around; doing what celebrities do. Soon enough, a huge hole opens up and wah-bam, it’s the end of the world. Half of the celebrities’ cameos end in gory demises, and there’s only a small group left to fend for themselves in Franco’s mansion. They take inventory, and it’s up to Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, and the trouble-making Danny McBride to wait out the apocalypse.

The only other possibly comparable movie to this is Tropic Thunder.  That movie’s main satire was of big Hollywood productions and those who make them. The main gag at play here is the actors skewering each others’ public personas, and essentially being hilariously mocked, and doing the mocking. They are playing themselves, but at the same time, they aren’t. They’re playing heightened versions of themselves, where some of these character attributes are similar to their everyday selves, but some aren’t. Who could possibly envision the seemingly sweet and innocent Michael Cera as a drug-abusin’, obnoxious loud-mouth? No one could have, but it makes for a simply hilarious character.

That’s the thing about This is the End: it’s insanely funny. Ridiculous, yes, but a sure blast if there ever was one. Each of these characters poke fun at each other and the fun they’re having really shows. They invite us on the ride, and this viewing is truly fun. They make a sequel or two to their best movies (Pineapple Express), and decide not to make one for Your Highness. It’s all good old-fashioned, self-aware bliss. You’re going to love these guys.

This is one of the most effective comedy/horror sci-fi hybrids in some time. I love the balance of gross-out humour and gross-out horror. The premise is very original, and the humour is silly and immature, but the majority of this content will have you laughing and howling the whole way through. It’s quotable, brilliant, immature, and just plain fun. This is the funniest movie some of these guys have ever been in. They sling one-liners every which way, there are a few great startles and you’ll probably love every minute of this.

Though, the pacing is rough in the middle. One usually can’t expand on the traditional end of the world premise, but the writers know what they’re doing and so they give this superb execution. They run with what they know: comedy. The movie just works incredibly well. For the most part, it’s a thin story, but it is effective and admirably written. About 90% of the jokes hit, and the ones that don’t, are mostly said by Jay Baruchel. He’s from my hometown, but the guy isn’t incredibly funny. He has a few good lines, but they’re limited. This could be because he’s written as the straight man, however. There’s also so much product placement that makes this feel like one big commercial for all things Coca Cola, Milky Way, Nutella, and CT Crunch (I could go on, there’s about as much product placement as memorable quotes). This is easily forgiven because it’s set in a real-life celebrity culture. No one’s going to just own No Name brands, especially not rich people who star in movies.

One would expect that this wouldn’t have a huge emotional core. It does, surprisingly, have a better one than the average comedy. This is a buddy comedy of a bunch of guys making the best of their situation, the relationship between Seth and Jay, and the fact that all of these guys need to learn a thing or two about fate, redemption and – most of all – friendship. It isn’t as undeniably sweet as Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t at least get a few chills at one of the movie’s most effectively awesome, sort-of emotional- and so, so hilarious – moments near the end.

This just shows that a comedy about hanging out with one’s best buds could be a real gem to the genre. Adam Sandler could take quite a few pointers from this comedy. These characters are so easy to love, even Danny McBride who you’ll love to hate. This is one of the greatest ensembles ever assembled, at least for a critically acclaimed flick. It could be called “Comedians Assemble”. It’s one of the most quotable movies since The Hangover, and you’ll want an encore screening the second it’s over, mostly to just learn more quotes, because there are so many. I love all of the obvious nods to popular movies, as well. This is as absolute blast that combines so many favourite genres – comedy, sci-fi, horror… It’s like Neapolitan ice cream. There are more than a few surprises in this fantastic comedy treat.

91/100