Comedy

Juno

Distributed By: FOX Searchlight Pictures

 

Reviewed by Melissa Minners
 

            I had heard a great deal about the movie Juno while it was in theaters.  Everyone was raving about this movie about teenage pregnancy written by a former exotic dancer (that’s right, I said exotic dancer).  This movie was getting terrific reviews from critics and was even nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Director.  It won for Best Screenplay.  And yet, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  Teenage pregnancy movies had been done before, so what made this one so special?  One of my co-workers had seen the movie and told me about it.  After her synopsis, I decided to check it out for myself and rented the DVD.

            Juno MacGuff is a bright, young high school outcast with a geeky boyfriend, a cheerleader best friend and a slightly dysfunctional family.  One night of boredom leads to a night of mischief, culminating in Juno’s becoming pregnant.  Realizing that she is too young to raise a child and discovering that abortion is not a viable option for her, Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption.  Though her parents are not exactly happy with the situation, they are tremendously supportive.  So is best friend Leah and even Paulie Bleeker, geeky athlete and father of the child, doesn’t seem to shun her as expected. 

            Juno responds to an ad in the local Penny Saver and the prospective adopted family is found.  The Lorings are a young “Yuppy” couple living in suburbia who have been trying to adopt for quite some time with little success.  Mark is not quite sure if he is ready for fatherhood, whereas Vanessa feels she was born for motherhood.  Juno instantly takes a liking to the two and decides that they are the couple for the job. 

            Now, most of this probably makes Juno sound like the average teenage pregnancy story.  Well, after watching this movie on DVD in the comfort of my home, I have to say that it most certainly is not.  Screenplay writer Diablo Cody dishes up a hilarious tale, offering us a lead character that is quirky, intelligent and full of fun.  Juno is not your average teenager and her approach to her situation is anything but ordinary.  As I watched this movie written in the point of view of the pregnant teenager, I kept thinking to myself – Ah!  This is what all the rave reviews are all about.  The screenplay is phenomenal and the line delivery spot on.

            The acting in this movie was excellent in that none of it seemed like it actually was an act.  While this is not Ellen Page’s first movie (you may remember her as Kitty Pride in X-Men: The Last Stand), this is a standout performance for the young actress.  Her portrayal of Juno was so believable that it earned her a highly coveted Oscar nomination for the role.  Michael Cera, also of Superbad fame, is terrific as Paulie Bleeker, father of Juno’s child.  Jennifer Garner is gushing to the point of nausea as Vanessa Loring.  I have never really liked Jason Bateman, a dislike that has dated back to his days on the television comedy series, Valerie.  For some reason, he has always played irksome characters and his character in this movie is no different – I despised Mark Loring.  Is this due to a special talent on Bateman’s part to perfectly immerse himself in a role and become what he needs to be for that role?  Or is it just that he happens to be an irksome individual portraying roles that are not a far toss from his own persona?  Alas, being the lowly reviewer that I am, I probably will never know.  J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are terrific as Juno’s incredibly accepting parents and newcomer Olivia Thirlby was funny as Juno’s teacher-obsessed best friend, Leah.

            I loved that this movie was written in Juno’s point of view.  This is the first movie about teenage pregnancy that I have seen written in the POV of the teenager.  It covers all of the issues that plague pregnant teenagers in a humorous, yet poignant way.  Take, for instance, the expanding belly.  Juno jokes about it and we laugh as she pukes blue Slurpee into her stepmother’s favorite urn.  But we also feel Juno’s pain as she complains about the way people look at her and the fact that she can’t go to the Winter Dance.  I also loved the way Diablo Cody made certain that, although Juno can act very mature at times, we never lose sight of the fact that Juno is a young teenager who can also be very childish. 

            There’s another thing about this screenplay that I really loved.  Cody can deliver lines of dialogue that will make you laugh hysterically like:

Vanessa Loring: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno MacGuff: Nah... I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?

and:

Bren: Doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream.

Yet she can still deliver valuable lessons in lines like this:

Mac MacGuff: In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.

With that kind of writing talent, I think that the name Diablo Cody is going to be around for quite some time.  In fact, as I watched Juno, I remember thinking that I truly hoped that Diablo Cody would present us with another film sometime in the near future.  After viewing Juno, there is nothing that would keep me away from her next project.

            As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I rented Juno on DVD.  Being one who loves extra features, I couldn’t wait to check out the extras on this DVD.  For my viewing pleasure, there were a multitude of deleted scenes.  After watching these scenes, I found myself wondering why they were deleted.  They were just as terrific as the rest of the movie and the only reason I would have deleted them is for time constraints.  Also available for my viewing pleasure was a Gag Reel, featuring numerous bloopers that took place throughout filming.  There was also a Gag Take which perplexed me – I wasn’t sure if the fight taking place between the actor and the director was real.  It seemed real and rather unprofessional and the lack of laughter in the scene led me to believe that this was no joke.  I would have left this one out of the Extras section.  There was also a Cast and Crew Jam and an opportunity to view the Juno Screen Tests

            Do I recommend you buy the Juno DVD?  DUH!!!  This is a terrific movie that you can’t afford to pass up.  If you are into extras as much as I am, you might want to do me one better.  I watched the single disc version of the film.  The two-disc version of the film contains four rather interesting featurettes in addition to all of the extras found on the single disc version.  Run, don’t walk, to your nearest store and buy Juno today!  You won’t be disappointed!

 

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