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JUNO (2007)

March 13, 2008

Juno review
Juno

Matt: 4 stars
Tracy: 4 stars

Length: 96 min

Taglines:
A comedy about growing up… and the bumps along the way.

Précis: Teenage pregnancy has rarely been so indie-cool.

Review by Matt:

Kid 1: Hey dude, do you know who that pregnant girl is?
Kid 2: Juno?
Kid 1: No, I don’t know – D’you know?
Kid 2: I said: Juno!
Kid 1: I said I DON’T KNOW!! That’s why I’m asking YOU! [fighting ensues]

Hilarious as my contribution to the script for Juno is, unsurprisingly there was no space for this joke in the final cut. That’s because Diablo Cody – exotic dancer turned Oscar winning screenwriter – came up with a sharp screenplay for this film. Actually Juno is not really a joke-laden film anyway. The humour is pretty understated. What it does have is a charming eccentricity and, more than anything else, a sensitivity rarely seen in that type of film. Sensitivity and quirkiness have married happily.

The plot centres on sixteen-year-old Juno (played with cool nonchalance by Ellen Page), a teenager with endless sardonic wisecracks. Really, they just spew out of her like, well, like she’s had a witty script carefully written for her. Without meaning to sound too cynical, Juno really is a character with the best teenage qualities amplified and the worst erased. She faces a trial: she is pregnant to her sort-of boyfriend Paulie (Michael Cera), an earnest softy with a passion for athletics and tic-tacs. Juno’s unkeen on terminating the pregnancy, so finds prospective parents who are desperate to adopt the upcoming baby: Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner), a wealthy couple who are all model homes, SUVs and propriety. But as the pregnancy moves on and Juno learns more about the couple, things complicate. The film develops some deeper textures that contrast to the slightly contrived world of Juno and her teenage sass. The plot that unfolds feels mostly honest and fresh.

It’s not surprising that Juno has experienced such an astounding success and that it has especially captured the affections of teenagers. It’s a new type of teenage film; respectful and positive about young people, with a fabulous heroine who is both smart and impertinent at once. Thoughtful teenagers have been sitting through teen junk for years waiting for this. Right now girls everywhere will be speaking in Juno’s laconic idiom and calling their friends on cheesy Juno hamburger-phones. They might not be dwelling on the hardships of life as a pregnant teen, but that’s a trade-off (and there are plenty of other films to dwell on that – or Degrassi Junior High at least).

Juno’s soundtrack is also a drawcard, with its mixture of indie-folk and retro (although it has inspired a string of woeful musical covers on YouTube) and it enhances the rebellious mood. Moldy Peaches, The Kinks, Belle and Sebastian, Buddy Holly, Sonic Youth; it’s an eclectic mix and kind of an invigorating experience. This is a film that, despite its sizable marketing effort and a popular director (Jason Reitman of Thank you for Smoking fame) seems all-over indie. Of course it’s not a true indie-film. If it were, it would have arrived through genuinely independent means, not through Fox pictures! Juno mostly just has a veneer of indie. Even the appearance of actors such as Jason Bateman and Michael Cera from the cultishly popular television show Arrested Development are likely to help bring in the right type of audience.

Provided you don’t find the constant stream of zinging witticisms disconcerting, there’s a lot to like about Juno. On its surface, it was already light-years more clever and original than most teenage comedies. But it’s also managed to add a deeper layer and to pull off a magical recipe of feel-good and oddball-funny without being juvenile or mawkish. So, although not hilarious, there’s plenty to smile at. Even without the inclusion of my superb joke.

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3 comments

  1. Great review!

    Juno has to be my favourite film of 2007, hands down. I have seen it 3 times now, and would easily go back for a fourth, before buying the DVD.

    Every time I see it, I do walk out of the cinema with the hugest smile on my face, what more could one ask for, right?


  2. great review, zippyfish-matt: this was the first movie that bub and i went to see together, and it was something of a weird experience being there with a baby given the subject of the film and all. The film’s portrayal of a teenage experience of pregnancy etc I found to be an endearingly funny and roughly accurate too: cockle-warming stuff indeed!
    ps and thanks for listing me among your website’s friends!


  3. wow, that was such a great movie! in fact i love this movie so much i’m thinking about getting a blue-ray-player and buy the bd-version instead of the dvd.
    it’ heart warming film that puts a smile on your face (as nick wrote).



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