Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Jason Reitman’s ‘Juno’ is a film, a fine film I might add, that probably deserves a much deeper examination that the one I’m going to give it.  This is a movie that has enough simple comedy to amuse the coconut on the head crowd, but underneath this ‘Juno’ is a film that strives to be, and largely succeeds in being so much more. 

Juno McGuff (Ellen Page) has gone and gotten herself knocked up.  Now Juno is a different kind of girl, but the same girl in many respects as any other high school junior.  The father of her child is her good buddy, the shy and reserved Bleeker (Michael Cera) who the wise cracking, slang spewing, profane sixteen year-old who looks like a ten year-old is truly in love with. Juno though uses her defense mechanism, which is her offhand personality and back handed wit, to avoid committing to the boy she’s so smitten with.  Further complicating who Juno is and what she represents is the fact that though Juno is that completely weird girl we all knew in high school, her best friend Leah is one of the schools hot cheerleaders and Juno is also the object of desire of the captain of the football team.  But there is still the slight issue of the pregnancy, which Juno correctly points out tends to lead to infants.

Pregnancy termination was Juno’s initial solution, but she nixes that idea when she finds out that her fetus might have fingernails and decides to bless a childless couple with her gift.  Enter Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who Juno and her cynical father Mac (J.K. Simmons) have a meet and greet with.  The Lorings are a successful yuppie couple looking for a child to complete their triangle of love, but they are an interesting pair with Mark being the cool, laid back creative type and having a lot in common with our wacky teenager, but not too terribly keen on being a

dad it would seem.  His wife Vanessa is an obsessive compulsive shrew who in her heart of all hearts wants nothing else BUT to be a mother.  Juno complicates matters with the couple by occasionally dropping in on Mark just to hang with the man old enough to be her father, which her step mother Brenda (Allison Janney) points out isn’t an altogether a cool thing to do.  Going from weighing 80 pounds to about 140 pounds and one day having no breasts to the next day dragging around swollen milk filled fun bags would be stressful on just about anybody, even the ultra cool Juno who learns more about life and relationships in her nine plus months of pregnancy, who by her own admission, than she is ill equipped to deal with.

Scripted by self proclaimed former stripper Diablo Cody, who is a very interesting character that I imagine will have a film crafted about her life one day, Juno is smart and swift with dialog coming at you from all angles and all directions.  Using a baseball metaphor (I’m a simple man who transforms everything into sport analogies), Cody follows a fastball with some off speed junk, then throws at your head only to groove another fastball right down the middle.  You never know what’s coming next.  On the surface what he have is very funny, but not in a Judd Apatow way, very fresh, very clever and reasonably original teenage sex comedy.  As she showed in the film ‘Hard Candy’, Ellen page is an excellent young actress with tremendous range, though at twenty years-old she may be cursed with a look that will keep her from playing a grown woman until she’s in her forties.  Despite the relatively heavy subject matter, I mean come on now, teenage sex, pregnancy and abortion isn’t a standard launch pad for humor, everybody seems to be ‘in on the joke’ and having a good time in this film.  Particularly J.K. Simmons who delivers yet another fantastic performance as Juno’s sardonic but loving father.

I did have some issue with one of the complicated issues that ‘Juno’ deals with, and this is the girls relationship with the Jason Bateman character.  Mark Loring is a composer of jingles, which has proven lucrative but not what he envisioned for his life the first time he lifted up a Les Paul.  Relegated to do his thing in a tiny room of his spacious suburban home by his obsessive compulsive wife, Juno reawakens something within Mark that had long lay dormant... ambition and desire.  The ambition I can get with but the desire part… I’m not so sure.  It’s funny because I like Jason Bateman and we being the same age and he being on TV or in the movies pretty much his entire life it’s almost like we were raised together.  He even had a hot older sister in Justine to lust after that any decent friend should have.  So watching ‘my friend’  – yes, that makes me sound like a lunatic – have sexual feelings for basically a child was a bit disturbing, possibly since Mark Loring is a character I can reasonably relate to.  Bateman handles the character and the situation very well, it just didn’t sit well.  Part this may be that Juno McGuff just isn’t all that desirable.  Funny, sly and cute but not someone I would remotely think of leaving my wife and setting up shop with.  I’m also the same age as Traci Lords and perhaps while she was doing her thing back in the day I could see why a 38 year old dude might want to get down with that, but not Juno.  On another completely unrelated note having nothing to do with this movie, I’m also about the same age and grew up with Todd Bridges who has also spent most his life in front of a camera, but yet I don’t consider him ‘my friend’.  I wonder why?

‘Juno’ is a very unique and fresh take on teenage sex, which I guess could be argued that we may not have needed a fresh take on teenage sex.  That argument aside, with its witty dialog, cutting edge humor, spot on performances and outsider feel this is a very easy movie to fall for.

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