Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, and Jason Bateman
Go see “Juno.” You can read my review about it first (which would be nice), but at the end of it, you should drop this paper and whatever else you are doing so that you can go and see this movie.
Whenever I write movie reviews, I try to avoid reading any other reviews, lest they cloud my judgment. Usually, this isn’t very difficult, but “Juno” isn’t a usual movie. Despite seeing a screening of this movie a few weeks before its wide release, I had to consciously avoid any press. Everywhere I looked, headlines were declaring this the best little movie of the year. Still, I willed myself not to click on any links or turn any pages. Now I can say, knowing that I was not unduly influenced, that “Juno” may just be one of the best movies of the year.
People have tried to compare this film to “Little Miss Sunshine” — it is an independent film, has great word of mouth, and stars someone from “Arrested Development” — but I think that is unfair to “Juno.” Sure, I liked “Little Miss Sunshine” but it is nothing compared to this movie.
Hilarious and heartwarming, “Juno” follows the 16-year-old title character, Juno MacGuff, as she discovers she is pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. The film begins with a laugh out loud exchange between a store clerk (played by the amazing Rainn Wilson) and Juno (Ellen Page) as she purchases her third home pregnancy test. And the film doesn’t slow down until the credits start rolling.
The dialogue is sharp and witty and does not suffer from too much sentimentality, something that usually happens with the birth of a child in a film. Instead, everyone, including Juno herself, recognizes that she has made a mistake and there is no way that she can care for a child. She just wants what’s best for the child so she looks to adoption and finds the “perfect” suburban couple in Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). Through her interaction with her own family and the Lorings, we see with Juno that life isn’t perfect, but you hope you can find someone who accepts you for who you are. Again, the film manages this without getting overly sentimental.
All of the characters are fully developed, contradictory people who are as easy and difficult to describe as your best friend. But as the title would suggest, this film rests squarely on Juno’s very small shoulders. Although the supporting characters are important for the plot and humor of the film — Allison Janney as Juno’s harsh but loving stepmother is certainly a scene-stealer — it is Juno who is in nearly every scene, and boy does she deliver. Most of what comes out of Juno’s mouth is funny, sweet, sad, truthful, and somewhat offensive. But it’s what we all wish we could say. Page is the perfect teenager who is funny and comfortable in her own skin but also awkward and scared at the same time. A modern day Lizzy Bennet, Juno stays true to her beliefs and uses humor to mask her insecurities.
Even weeks after seeing this film, it is still resonating within me. I may not be able to remember every joke, but I remember how real it felt and how much my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. As I said at the beginning of this review, go see “Juno.”