Fox Searchlight Pictures
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Occasionally, something unexpected and magical turns up on movie screens. A film comes out of nowhere, low budget, with no big stars in the cast, and dazzles us with its talent.
Last year, Jason Reitman made his directorial debut with Thank you for Smoking, a funny, thoughtful treatise on corporatism, relationships, and many things American.
This year, he’s back with an even better offering: Juno. Juno is the name of a 16-year-old high school student who finds herself pregnant by her best friend, whom she also envisions as her true love. No moralizing is needed, as Juno realizes the error, and decides to take charge of the situation. After considering her options, she decides to have the baby and find a good home for him/her with adoptive parents.
Juno is fortunate. She has good friends, a loving father, an interested, caring step mom, and a guy she really cares about. It’s also a big plus that she’s whip smart, funny, and wise beyond her years.
The two leads are young Canadian actors. Ellen Page is Juno and she radiates stardom from the screen. Michael Sera is Pauley Bleeker, the hapless boyfriend who discovers the meaning of “OOPS!” the hard way. Her parents are J.K. Simmons, who played the police psychiatrist on many episodes of Law & Order, and Allison Janney, the press secretary from The West Wing. They are the kind of down-to-earth parents anyone would love to have. The adoptive couple Juno finds through a classified ad is Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. She wants nothing more in life than to be a mommy, while he is a composer / music buff with a serious “Peter Pan” complex.
And making all this acting and directing talent shine is the lyrical script by first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody. The words are a delight to listen to. The character development is strong and dead-on. She knows and understands her characters. In fact, her story might make a good movie itself. Cody (not her real name) became bored with her day job in an ad agency, so she decided to try stripping. After making a success of that career, screen writing seemed like a good idea, and her first try, Juno, is a major career changer.
Juno avoids preaching and hand wringing. It approaches the problem of teen pregnancy with an open mind and considers it accordingly. In fact, it would be a terrific film for teens, both boys and girls, to see and discuss and learn from.
Juno flows with energy and charm, offers up a really nice song score on the soundtrack, and at a running time of 92 minutes, doesn’t have a wasted moment on film. It’s already managed Golden Globe nominations for Page, Cody, and the film. Can Oscar be waiting in the wings? Quite possibly.
If you see one movie over the Christmas season, make it Juno.