CAPSULE: JUNO is a pleasant as light as possible comedy on the serious subject, teenage pregnancy. What happens to Juno after she becomes pregnant seems to cover a wide range of possibilities of the situation. We see what her alternatives are and how she reacts. It is a little disquieting that the film takes things as lightly as it does and the ending just does not feel sufficient to the situation. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
High school student Juno MacGuff (played by Ellen Page) has a big problem. At the beginning of the film she is just discovering from her third pregnancy test of the day that she really is pregnant. This changes everything for her. Now what? Does she tell her boyfriend? Does she tell her parents? Does she want to terminate the pregnancy? What are her options? A surprisingly wide variety of those options are covered in this story and the approach is kept breezy even if the subject matter is not. Among the alternatives that Juno considers is allowing the child to be adopted by a local infertile couple, Vanessa and Mark Loring (action-hero actress Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). They seem like a perfect couple and Juno particularly likes Mark, but in this course in Life 101 the viewer expects there are some problems that Juno does not see. Speaking of not seeing the problems ahead, I had the feeling that writer Diablo Cody did not give sufficient thought to the emotional impact of what has happens in the story and what comes after. Juno remains flippant, but I wonder how long that will last. The end of the film is by no means the end of the story. At least the film does not give all the good lines to Page. There are several witty characters to keep the dialog witty if not always believable. Director Jason Reitman, who previously gave us THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, plays the situation for as much comedy as he can muster. The dialog is kept whimsical and breezy.
Halifax-born Ellen Page has a sort of light bubbly personality that reminds one of a younger Parker Posey. The personality is attractive, but perhaps not quite so appropriate considering the gravity of her situation and the fact she is playing with lives. She seems not quite right, but that could be just the style of the film. J. K. Simmons really shines as Juno's father. He usually seems to play abrasive personalities like J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man films. Surprise: He is just about an ideal father figure. He has humor and generates genuine warmth. I had mixed emotions about his daughter but a genuine affection for his character. And Allison Janney as Juno's stepmother is nearly as genial. I had just seen her in HAIRSPRAY when I saw this film. She had a very visible role in "The West Wing" and she seems to be in demand. I had the feeling that the film was aiming in a large part for a teenage audience and it is ironic that the parents of the main character are so much more likable than the character herself. Most of the other performances are also pretty much on target.
The original music is by Matt Messina, but the music seems to be mostly songs with words that occasionally distract from the action.
Overall this is a reasonable teen comedy, a cut above most teen films, but perhaps sending mixed signals. I rate the film a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Sidenote: If "Diablo Cody" seems a slightly over-the-top name for the screenwriter, she has gone by many names. Her biography in the Internet Movie Database says that her real name is Brook Busey and that she has been a stripper under the names Bonbon, Roxanne, and Cherish. She has also been a phone sex operator. This is a somewhat atypical background for a screenwriter, but I suppose she should know something about life.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0467406/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2007 Mark R. Leeper