Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman
If you've seen the preview, you know what you're getting yourself into here. If you've been forced to see it by your girlfriend/wife/fiance (Congratulations, JohnKaren!), then you'll probably hate the movie, but if you've seen the trailer and wanted to see it on your own (as I did), then I believe you'll get what you pay for.
The internet film community has been abuzz about Juno ever since it ran the festival circuit months ago, and I've been anxious to see if it lived up to all the hype. Jason Reitman, son of the famous Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghost Busters, Kindergarten Cop), scored with an excellent debut film in Thank You For Smoking. (Why didn't that movie make it on my list?) I knew he could make a really good movie, but one of the most publicly-overlooked aspects of film production is the script, and with Juno the scriptwriter was getting more publicity than anyone else involved with the project. Enter Diablo Cody, the blogger-turned-stripper who has become the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood seemingly overnight. After seeing the movie, I think she deserves all the praise she has been getting and I think she's a lock for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. She has crafted a fantastically realistic world with characters that feel so true-to-life that the movie could almost be a documentary.
Ellen Page is adorable as Juno MacGuff, the suddenly-pregnant main character of the film whose eccentricities border on those of my group of friends. Diablo Cody has a knack for writing dialogue, and Juno's unique verbal style shines above the rest. Page does a perfect job with the character; she was born for that role. Michael Cera plays his normal awkward character (really well, as usual) as Paulie Bleeker, the father of Juno's child. Jennifer Garner was acceptable as the hopeful-mother-to-be Vanessa, while Jason Bateman breezes through his middle-aged rock star wannabe character with ease. J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man series), is refreshing as the Juno's dad - the actors all did such a great job in this movie, you really believe they could be related. In other words, the audience didn't require a great deal of suspension of disbelief in this one.
The music was the one thing that I didn't particularly care for - I thought they went a little overboard with the whole "independent" vibe they were going for. But hey - apparently it's the best selling album on iTunes right now, so what do I know? I will give them one thing: that "Anyone Else But You" song by The Moldy Peaches is ridiculously catchy, if not way too indie for my tastes.
When it was all said and done, I liked Juno a lot. It was funnier than I thought it'd be, and the comic timing and delivery of the lines can only be attributed to the actors for that. I'd recommend it if you're looking for something a little more lighthearted than I Am Legend at the theater before it comes out on DVD.
(Spoilers 'til the end)
I just wanted to give my thoughts on the relationship between Mark (Jason Bateman) and Juno, because during one particular scene I was so uncomfortable that I resorted to physically shrinking away from the screen and squinting my eyes. Their relationship is definitely strange, but also (I believe) pretty easy to figure out. To Mark, Juno represents everything he wants (aka fun, music, movies, etc) but can't have because of his stifled marriage and, more importantly, his refusal to grow up. He sees her as a person, instead of a means to an end like Vanessa sees her. [This isn't to say that Juno and Vanessa don't have a good relationship. As proved in the mall scene, Juno is more than willing to allow Vanessa the joy of being a mother vicariously through her and ultimately Juno ends up giving up her son to Vanessa because she believes, among other things, that it was "always hers." It's the type of relationship they SHOULD have had.]
During Juno's relationship glitch with Bleeker (she finds out he's going to the prom with Katrina Whatshername), Juno reaches out to Mark as the replacement guy in her life to fill the void that Bleeker has left. This is an older guy who used to be in a band, has similar interests, cool guitars, etc. What's not to like about him? We get an insight into the possible undertones in their relationship when Bren tells Juno not to cross the line because Mark is married, but Juno blows her off. Soon after, Mark and Juno find themselves alone (again!) in the house and start dancing, reminiscing about Mark's prom. Juno finds herself in the place of a girl that Mark danced with years ago, mimicking this girl's dancing motions and hand placement for him as he relives his childhood experience through her, a similar tactic employed by Vanessa. This is Mark's last feeling of true happiness in the film: dancing in his room full of stuff that Vanessa doesn't approve of with a girl who is compatible with him on every level except age.
I don't think that Mark would have made a real move on Juno - he had the opportunity a couple of times when they were alone and didn't pull the trigger. He's not a bad guy or a pedophile or anything like that; he's just repressed and Juno was the only outlet for him. For proof that he wouldn't make a move on her, watch the scene again - it's Mark who stops the dance by revealing that he wants a divorce from Vanessa. "I thought you'd be cool with this!" he says, hoping more for an encouraging response from his newfound friend than a confession of love from her. He has found a kindred spirit in Juno and didn't want to give it up, although he knew it was necessary.
Agree or disagree and let me know what you think in the comments section. Until next time...
Trivia: The movie cost $2.5 million to make, and made over $52 million in its first month of release. Also, you can download the script for free at this link, which I would recommend if you want to see what a real film script looks like. It'll take a second to load, but it's worth a look.