Review by Jack Foley
WELCOME to the smartest feel-good comedy of the year. Juno is nothing short of a sensation given that it – ahem – gives birth to a major new screenwriting talent, confirms its young leading lady as a major star and is certain to leave audiences with a very warm glow.
The film was penned by Diablo Cody, a former stripper and phone sex operator, who has rapidly become one of Hollywood’s hottest new talents. It’s clever without being smug, funny without resorting to the obvious and touching without feeling overly sentimental.
Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a whip-smart teenager who finds herself pregnant after deciding to relieve her boredom by seducing her geeky boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera) one afternoon.
Rather than have an abortion, she resolves to have the baby and put the child up for adoption and, with the help of her supportive parents (JK Simmons and Allison Janney), finds a suitable couple in wealthy husband and wife Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner).
But as her due date approaches matters become complicated by various feelings and emotions that prompt a coming-of-age of sorts in just about every character.
Cody’s dialogue is fresh, amusing and right on the money, helping to turn each character into a genuinely rounded individual rather than some token Tinseltown stereotype.
Juno, especially, is the type of cool, level-headed teenager with the gift of the gab that anyone would want to or would love to have been. But Ellen Page also ensures that she displays an endearing vulnerability that helps lend her later scenes a genuine poignancy.
Vanessa and Mark, too, make for fascinating would-be parents, with Jason Bateman especially balancing cool yet immature tendencies with likeable ease. But Jennifer Garner also gets some lovely moments that enable her to appear much less cold than she appears at first.
And Allison Janney and JK Simmons excel as Juno’s parents, tugging at the heartstrings as much as they tickle the funny bone in their efforts to support their daughter (their reaction to the pregnancy in the first place is priceless).
Director Jason Reitman allows Cody’s script to work its magic but also lends the film a cool, intelligent edge as evidenced on his previous film, Thank You For Smoking. And he even ensures it’ll have a life beyond the multiplex thanks to a savvy soundtrack that has already become an iTunes favourite.
Efforts by some American parties to open a debate about abortion and to suggest the film takes an anti-stance seem to be missing the point, for that’s not what Juno is about.
Rather, it’s a sassy, heartfelt and genuinely insightful affair that’s as free-spirited, courageous and loveable as Juno herself. It’s easily one of the standout films of the year.
Running time: 91mins
UK DVD Release: June 9, 2008