by Tony Medley
Forget the Oscar®-nominated
mediocrity, Little Miss Sunshine, two better Indies last year
were Thank You For Smoking and Hard Candy. Juno
unites comedic genius Jason Reitman, who directed the former, with the
up-and-coming star Ellen Page, who was the lead in the latter. The
result is a poignant, modern romantic comedy, with abundant profanity,
about a teenager and her unplanned pregnancy.
How this film came to be
could be the subject of a Hollywood film in and of itself. Producer
Mason Novick started reading an internet blog by Diablo Cody. He thought
her writing was so funny he contacted her and asked her to write a
screenplay, based, apparently, on a manuscript she wrote entitled “Candy
Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.” The result was
Juno, which Novick read in one sitting and was “blown away.”
Clearly, Novick has an eye for talent!
I hear stuff like this all
the time from producers who are pushing their films. Rarely are they
translated into anything that blows me away. But this one is an
exception. While the blowing wasn’t enough to sweep me off my feet, it
is a very entertaining movie.
Juno MacGuff (Page) is a
high school girl who gets pregnant when she has sex once with her kind
of quiet, introspective boyfriend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).
Instead of being devastated, however, the confident Juno tells her
father, Mac (J.K. Simmons, in a terrific performance), and stepmother,
Bren (Allison Janney). They react pragmatically with total support when
Juno tells them she wants to have the baby and choose a couple to whom
to adopt it.
She chooses Mark and
Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who seem the perfect
couple. All is not what it seems, however, and the film takes off from
there with interesting twists, not going where you think it might be
going. All the while, Juno is in control.
This is a different take on
teen pregnancy than generally seen in Hollywood. Instead of killing it
by having an abortion (although she considers it) Juno takes
responsibility for her actions (in having unwed sex) and doesn’t
sacrifice her child.
Reitman and Cody create
Juno as a Peanuts-like individual, a child in appearance only,
but one who acts and thinks like a mature adult. The result is a fine
comedy with a good moral.
The acting is top rate
throughout. I thought Page deserved an Oscar® nomination for Hard
Candy. She’s just as good, if not better, here. Simmons, Janney,
Cera, Bateman, and Garner are all excellent. Reitman is a budding
superstar director, as he gets the best out of everyone. It takes talent
to make a comedy out of a serious situation like this, and make it work.
This is a terrific,
enjoyable film that applauds the value of life. On the downside, it
follows a Hollywood trend of minimizing the importance of a father in a
baby’s life, which lowered my rating a skosh.
November 27, 2007