Review: Juno

One of the most prominent faults of indie movies as a genre is the tendency to choose quirk and hip irony instead of telling stories about real people not cute caricatures. Juno works despite the fact that it comes sugarcoated with a layer of indie cuteness. At the end of the day, Juno is still funny, heartfelt and achingly sincere storytelling.

Juno, played by Hard Candy’s Ellen Page, has just gotten pregnant after becoming “sexually active” with her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). She considers getting an abortion but to prolong the movie, she decides to keep it. After scouring the penny saver for parents to adopt her kid, Juno stumbles upon Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The movie takes off from there and follows Juno ‘s personal journey throughout the course of her pregnancy.

First off, I would like to make it clear that Juno is not Knocked Up. There are no lovable man children anywhere and while it does traffic in it’s own kind of raunch it is much wittier than the excellent but simple Knocked Up. A movie like this can only succeed with great acting. You need versatile actors who can keep up with the rapidfire comic pacing and deliver genuine pathos.

The standout is Ellen Page. She inhabits this character perfectly and brings her to life. Whereas so many other indie characters are defined by their quirks, Page’s Juno embraces her oddities and explains them. By the end of the movie you will be able to see past Juno’s sarcastic putdowns and truly embrace the character.

Michael Cera is tragically underused but it very perfect in the few scenes he has. Juno gives him an opportunity to show off his acting chops and he delivers. Cera essentially plays the same character in everything, but there is nothing wrong with that when that character is both hilarious and woefully sweet. Sadly Cera does not share any screentime with his Arrested Development father, Jason Bateman who delivers an understated yet effective performance.

Jason Reitman’s direction is not as inspired as in Thank You for Smoking but he brings the script to life and has excellent timing. The only fault I can find with him is the overbearing cuteness he sometimes infuses the movie with. I cannot help but feel that Reitman occasionally robs the screenplay by Hollywood it screenwriterette Daiblo Cody of some of its acidity to make it more palatable for audiences.

All in all, Juno is a great movie. I highly recommend seeing this on a date or with a girl of some kind, you’ll thank me later. I cannot wait to see what Diablo Cody comes up with next, if it bristles with the same perfect mixture of caustic wit and tender emotion as Juno then let me be the first to say that Cody is one of the great modern screenwriters. On a side note, somebody given Ellen Page some more roles, this girl is the next Jodie Foster, you heard it here first.

-Vman

WARNING: Tangents ahead.

‘Napoleon Dynamite’ with more indie rock (pop). ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ for the Wii generation (no, too young. Wait. No. Too old. Too young?). Or something. This film is amazing. I’ll just say it outright. The film references the Melvins, Argento, and McSweeney’s (!). All in less than two hours! But it must be said.’Juno’ creates a world that is all too perfect and all too unreachable. All us kids want to live there (and the hipsters can come if they want). Everyone wants to be in that ship, on that boat. It’s so perfect.

I read McSweeney’s! I am cool! Am I not cool? Where is this coolness?! I want indie lovability! I read an indie-type cool mag! It’s not known! You don’t know me! I am awesome! Make me feel smart, Diablo Cody! How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house! That is not my beautiful wife! Etcetera.

But until that day comes when we can walk amongst bare trees with indie music playing in the background, accompanying us as we think of nice things, of beautiful things, we must come to realize that ‘Juno’ is only a movie. But a great movie at that. (and forget that ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ reference point. While it’s true for the first twenty minutes or so (the drawings, the kid in the Chem class), we quickly come to realize that ‘Juno’ is something much more. Something much more…meaningful.)

As Vman has discussed, this is the story of a girl. We probably can even label her as an indie girl (darn all this indie cuteness (and yet I love it relentlessly!)! I’ve been saying all along that 2007 is the year indie broke through to the mainstream, and doesn’t this film prove it?! But that’s another post…). So she gets pregnant, hopes she finds love, etc. Just go see it or watch Kyle Osborne tell you about it (I’d prefer if you’d go and see it, but fancy television can supplement a few minutes of your life (?)).

All the actors are great in ‘Juno’ (even if the girl at the Women Now reception desk isn’t really a newfound, thespian treasure. Or if the Asian girl in front of the abortion clinic is a little too stereotypical. Alas. That’s life (!) (but do kids really do all this stuff? Drink slushies each day? (Dream!!) Where do they get this money? Can I ride my bike and have a guitar on my back at the same time? Has the zeitgeist come to sit on my living room couch yet? Should we play Scrabble? Or Pictionary? Or wait. He’s got a DS. There goes the social. (now we’ll have to wait until he gets on Facebook))). I have to say though, Jennifer Garner is really great in this. The bizarre permits that allowed her to fly to the Middle East in ‘The Kingdom’ can be forgiven. She is absolutely fantastic in this film, playing a woman who so needs to be a mother. Her character is true. And she is true. Bravo. Bravo.

Jason Bateman is pretty wonderful as well. He wears a ‘Superunknown’ shirt in the movie. ‘Superunknown.’ Super-bleepin’-unknown! This is great stuff! (not to say ‘Superunknown’ is great, but just all the referencing and such. Finally! The ’90s get their due!)

And Michael Cera. Oh, Mike. You truly are a gift from the godmothers of Hollywood. I hope you succeed. You have been wonderful this year. 2007. The year of Cera-digital-indie. There.

And goodness. Allison Janney? J.K. Simmons? I’m running out of standard complimentary adjectives here, people.

Jason Reitman. Oh, Jason. Your father hooked me as a young lad with ‘Ghostbusters’ (I fully approve of the union between Wes Anderson and Bill Murray. What a great union it is.). You reeled me in with ‘Thank You For Smoking.’ And now, you have gutted me with ‘Juno.’ Another Bravo is needed here. Bravo. The colors are really great. The weather is really great. The art work is really great. So distribute that Bravo around to those people who deserve it as well. Please. Thanks.

God Bless Cat Stevens. God Bless Diablo Cody. (or at least, thank goodness for them both) She has exceeded the hype. And the hype is well met. This is amazing. Please continue to write touching things like ‘Juno.’ I know you’re going to be writing teen horror-parody-bizarro flicks and stuff, but please. “I listened to that Sonic Youth album. It was just noise!” What a great, wonderful line.

Do you have to be in on the joke to get these jokes? I guess- seeing as how I was laughing and smiling much more than anyone else in the crowded theater audience was (not that I’m really in on the jokes anymore than they are, but I’m writing on a blog, so this whole thing about being knowledgeable about culture is kind of self-explanatory.)

And I’m not going to say anything about Ellen Page. Everything I could say about her has already been written. And she really wasn’t that that amazing. But yes. She was pretty amazing.

That hype! That hype! ‘American Gangster’ plummeted into the depths because of the hype. But ‘Juno.’ This is a motion picture that takes hype and digests it, producing a fully edible, and entirely healthy meal. Thank you for ‘Juno.’ A real holiday treat.

And it’s smile-inducing. Those are two things I don’t get to write very often. Please go smile at this holiday treat of a movie (though it be a treat year-round).

– R.H.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Review: Juno

  1. Absolutely written subject material, Really enjoyed reading through.

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