Ah, teen pregnancy. Is there any topic more amusing? Juno, the hilarious original (and Oscar-nominated!) screenplay from Diablo Cody, former stripper and current Entertainment Weekly columnist, would have us believe not. And with a masterful mix of biting wit and touching tenderness, I'm buying into it.
Ellen Page plays Juno MacGuff, a high school senior who discovers that she's been knocked up by her best friend (and true love?) Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After carefully weighing her options, she decides to give the baby up for adoption to a couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who put an ad in the Pennysaver. Along the way, she learns life lessons both meaningful (about the nature of true love and what it really means to become an adult) and somewhat more inane (did you know that fetuses can have fingernails as early as twelve weeks old? Actually, I looked it up--they don't develop fingernails until week thirty-six. But who's counting, right?).
I had been looking forward to seeing Juno ever since, well, I learned that Michael Cera was in it. Then, when I actually found out what the movie was about, I became even more excited. Like crossing-off-calendar-days-with-red-marker excited. So I was pretty pissed when Juno's opening weekend rolled around and I discovered that it was only given a limited release. I made my sister scour the Internet for at least ten minutes, hoping for some sign that I would in fact be able to fill my flicks fix that weekend. Fortunately, after I spent a few days fuming-slash-moping around the house, I found out that Juno would be coming to theatres near me, though two weeks later than advertised. Better late then never, right? I even managed to score a free ticket (and a too-small t-shirt), so I suppose things worked out OK. My point with this paragraph? Oh, there is none. I just felt like sharing a story.
Alright, I suppose there is one point I can make (though the validity of me needing the previous paragraph to make is undoubtedly questionable), and it is this--Juno absolutely lived up to all the hype I had given it.
Michael Cera was awkwardly hilarious (or is it hilariously awkward?) as always, and it was good to see he and Jason Bateman working together again, even if they never had a chance to deliver some of their wonderful, Arrested Development-honed chemistry (Cera and Bateman, sadly, did not have any scenes together). Still, it made me happy to see their names in close proximity, credits-wise, once more. Ellen Page's Juno managed to be outrageous and believable at the same time, though that may be more due to an excellent screenplay than good acting (though Page's performance was far above average). J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney were both fantastic in their supporting roles as Juno's father and stepmother, and every supporting character, from Juno's female friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) to Su-Chin (Valerie Tain), abortion protester (and provider of fetus-facts) and school acquaintance of Juno's, added something meaningful to the film--truly an ensemble cast.
If I have one quibble with Juno (and I always seem to have at least one, don't I?), it is that the first half of the film was a little too cute. Rather than trying for funny-yet-realistic dialogue, Cody seemed to delight in making almost every conversation as over-the-top as possible. The absurdity is certainly part of the charm (and all of the humor), and the contrast it provided to the second half of the film allowed it to send its message without seeming preachy, but it too often felt manufactured. Funnily manufactured, but manufactured nonetheless. The alternative, though, would have been worse--had Juno tried to be realistic as possible, it would not only have failed to stand out, but would have been just a plain old mediocre movie (and far less quotable). I'll gladly take the lesser, far lesser, of those two evils, thank you very much.