Vanessa: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno: Nah. I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?
A teenage girl reflects on a chair; her boyfriend was good "in chair," that one time. Then she begins to down a quart of Sunny D as she walks to the local store to take her third pregnancy test.
The test once again shows her the "doodle you can't undo." She's pregnant, and has some difficult decisions to make.
Principally about characters, Juno (2007) features first-rate performances. Ellen Page does a memorable turn in the title role. Bright and outwardly happy, she and best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) live largely separate from the superficial angst of high school. Juno manages to be resilient and mostly cheerful, yet not unrealistically so. She feels the pain of her situation; she just refuses to play the victim. Juno's attempts to control her difficult circumstances do not always succeed, but they win our applause.
Despite the film's comedic and satiric tone, the relationships all play believably. Michael Cera as befuddled quasi-boyfriend Paulie continues his streak of awkward young men. He appears to lag behind his fellow track athletes in a number of respects. By the film's end, we see his true character. We're shown developments in Juno's relationships with her father (J.K. Simmons), stepmother (Allison Janey), and the would-be adoptive parents, Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). As Juno's belly expands these relationships grow into places we cannot always predict, but which feel entirely plausible. The psychology of the adoptive parents, in particularly, impressed me. Given what we first see-- yuppie professionals who advertise for a child in the Pennysaver and display photos of themselves on their walls-- it would have been very easy to play both for one-note comic effect. However, writer Diablo Cody has drawn complex characters with inner workings we can believe if not always embrace.
Even incidental characterizations work well. One scene shows Juno's interactions with her peers in a science class. This brief, amusing encounter has very little to do with the rest of the story, but the characters recall high school more than the tiresome stereotypes of most teen movies. The same can be said of an annoying jock character, one rooted in real-life cliché. His final, fleeting appearance provides ones of Juno's biggest laughs.
The film captures the levels of suburban society in a way that suits the film but never intrudes inappropriately into the narrative. The setting has been depicted neither with an excess of hostility nor affection.
The witty writing recalls Ghost World, though the film's tone is less pessimistically ironic, its view of life more affectionately stylized-- and its verbal shots less consistently funny. For every two or three gems, we have to tolerate teens swearing "Honest to blog!" and the like.
Indeed, the film tries too hard at times to be hip, in that pop-culture-referencing way, and one may tire of every second character spouting quirky wisecracks. However, Juno succeeds because, in the end, it manages to be genuinely entertaining while illuminating a corner of humanity.
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff
Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker
Olivia Thirlby as Leah
J.K. Simmons as Mac MacGuff
Allison Janney as Bren MacGuff
Jennifer Garner as Vanessa Loring
Jason Bateman as Mark Loring
Emily Perkins as the receptionist
Valerie Tian as Su-Chin