Movie Review: Juno

Enough with the superserious abortion movies, right? 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days wins the Palme D’Or and it’s all like, ugh, I get it. Can’t we have, like, a really cute movie about how carrying a baby to term is a totally awesome experience? About, as Nathan Lee wrote, “how totally hilarious and super-sweet it is for a 16-year-old high-school girl not to have an abortion”? Isn’t it time the Gilmore Girls crowd had a movie about teen pregnancy to feel good about and call their own?

So went the reasoning, presumably, behind the ultimately misguided decision to produce Juno, an often insufferable piece of hyperquirkiness, from its indie lofi soundtrack right down to its lead’s hamburger-telephone (awww!), not to mention that character’s one and only vice is…orange tic tacs! Hee hee, gr8!

The title character, played by Ellen Page (last seen, by me anyway, trying to chop off Patrick Wilson’s hoo-ha in Hard Candy), is described in the film as “just…different,” a line that just about sums up the film’s proud celebration of how, like, totally friggin’ unique it is. (That’s why it’s named after it’s main character!) Director Reitman’s previous outing, Thank You For Smoking, wasn’t exactly lacking for personal style, but Juno cranks the idiosyncratic aesthetic up to 11. “You’re, like, the coolest person I know and you don’t even have to try,” Page tells Cera, who replies, “I try really hard, actually.” So too, to an unflatteringly conspicuous degree, does the film.

Page gets impregnated—whooops! LOL!—by her BFF Michael Cera (God bless him) and because, so it seems, the abortion clinic is like totally lame she decides she’ll keep the baby and give it to some couple who needs it. Thanx! Her decision to keep the baby in her belly seems, like the film, perfunctory at best and self-righteous at worst. Thank You For Smoking‘s crackling cynicism has been replaced by a smug hipness, Napoleon Dynamite devoid any glimmer of goofy charm, that leads the filmmakers to often pause the film to discuss matters of Great Importance, like whether ’77 or ’93 was the best year for rock, or whether Dario Argento is a better splatterist than Herschell Gordon Lewis. (Get the references? Cool, right?)

When, midway, Juno begins to lighten up with the preciousness and honestly confronts, or at least hints at, the complexities of the adoption process—from the role of the perspective parents (maybe they can’t conceive on their own for a reason?), the emotional difficulty in carrying a child to term only to surrender it upon its birth, a pregnancy’s irreversible effects on a romantic relationship—it begins to do better as a film, but just about squanders all of its dramatic capital with a right-out-of-Full House climactic conversation between Page and her father, J.K. Simmons. “Find someone who’ll love you for you!” K!

Simmons, Cera, and Jason Bateman round out the film’s margins nicely (in addition to a fine cameo from Rainn Wilson), but it’s not their film, even collectively; it belongs, of course, to Page in the eponymous role, who gives a commanding performance and thoroughly creates a credible character out of Juno, with a hand from Diablo Cody’s script I’m sure. But unfortunately that character is obnoxious to the point of bordering on the outright unlikable—an incessant wisenheimer. In short, a real-life teenager. (Ugh!)

Grade: C+

Juno Poster Release Date: December 5, 2007
Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language.
Running Time: 92 min.
Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, JK Simmons, Allison Janey, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Rain Willson
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Diablo Cody
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Official Website: Click Here
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