With the likes of “Knocked Up and “Waitress a new sub-genre centred on accidental pregnancies emerged last year in American cinema. Both films were major hits, connecting well with critics and viewers alike. The biggest, most critically acclaimed film of the bunch was the sleeper hit “Juno, a $7 million production starring a little-known young actress that went on to garner more than $142 domestically and earn a best original screenplay Oscar for the film’s real star, scriptwriter Diablo Cody.
The titular character of the film is a 16-year-old odd-ball misfit, played by relative newcomer Ellen Page, who finds out she’s pregnant after her first sexual encounter with her best friend Bleeker (Michael Cera from sitcom “Arrested Development and last year’s comedy smash “Superbad. ).
Juno’s parents are not the archetypical Hollywood parents and their reaction towards the news Juno brings to them is devoid of the screaming and paranoia normal parents fail to curb.
But Juno is no ordinary girl, and her parents aren’t either. Juno’s dad expresses his clear disappointment in his daughter, but he’s a practical man, and instead of indulging himself in futile wallowing and the usual I-told-you-so, he decides to support Juno and help her solve this predicament.
Initially, she considers abortion, but after a quick trip to a clinic, she decides to keep the baby and give it up for adoption.
She eventually stumbles upon the seemingly perfect suburban couple Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). Living in a spotless, lavish house, the courteous pair impresses Juno who decides to give away her baby to them.
Juno struggles to understand the alien adult world, while trying to cope with her confounding feelings towards herself, Bleeker and the world.
The first time I saw “Juno, I simply couldn’t stand the first half of the film, which heavily relies on Cody’s fast, witty dialogue that sounds like a big scramble of one-liners.
The key problem with Diablo’s words is that all characters appear to be speaking with the same voice. The glib dialogue, jam-packed with countless pop-culture references, isn t only off-putting, but distracting and downright irritating.
About 20 minutes in though, both the dialogue and Juno started to grow on me as I began to understand and enjoy the heroine’s quirky universe.
The young teen is deeply convinced she’s beyond her years, and to some extent, she’s right. She’s cynical, acerbic and overconfident. Yet, and beneath it all, she’s just a young girl who realizes that she doesn’t understand the world after all. The four seasons that signal the beginning and end of her pregnancy mark her journey to maturity and self-acceptance.
Diablo Cody is a stripper-turned-blogger turned scriptwriter, who released a hit book entitled “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper in 2006. She has a gift for creating such quotable, sharp and incredibly funny dialogue, but her greatest asset is how she gives room for her characters to grow.
Cody loves her characters. She always restrains herself from vilifying any of them. Even Mark (the husband, played by Bateman), who ultimately comes off as self-centered, remains charming and somewhat sympathetic. “Juno is one of those rare movies where adults are as equally lovable and congenial as their offspring. Her choice to allow Juno’s parents to behave the way they do might be regarded as irresponsible, unrealistic or even socially unacceptable. Yet her approach is refreshing and unconventional and, most imperatively, is in sync with the world she set up for them.
Most critics overlooked director Jason Reitman’s commendable work that seems to be overshadowed by Cody’s script. But “Juno wouldn’t have truly worked without the jubilant, soft look and mood in which he cloaks the story.
Much has been written about Page’s breakthrough performance, and despite her exasperating turn at the beginning of the film, she almost steals the picture with the kaleidoscope of emotions she infuses in her role.
I can’t help comparing “Juno with Terry Zwigoff’s “Ghost World. Juno’s macabre sense of humor, confusion and loss is similar to “World’s Enid (Thora Birch). The major difference is that Enid remains lost and confused, eventually deserting her world.
“Juno has none of “Ghost World’s realistic cruelty. Instead, the film builds up to one emotional climax only the stone-hearted is capable of resisting.
Unlike Enid, Juno ultimately finds her way, embracing the ordinary magic of her world. By the end of the movie, you just want to hug her, cheer for her relationship with Bleeker and live a little longer in this eccentric world.
“Juno is not a great film, and the enormous hype that has surrounded it from day one is certainly over exaggerated. It’s a small, beautiful, funny, and tremendously heart-warming movie with a central romance that is real, uncontrived, and simply cute.
And the killer soundtrack will leave you with a pulsating desire to chant Kimya Dawson’s adult lullabies in the middle of a crowded street, with a big, childish grin on your face.