by guest reviewer Gary Ray
If you’ve seen the trailer for Juno and decided that it’s not for you, please read on: I’d like to change your mind. I thought the same thing when I saw the trailer: here we go again, another “quirky” movie peopled with characters who’d never do or say half the things they door say and with a lead character that spouts smart-alecky remarks that no one could possibly dream up that didn’t have a week to ponder them.
Then I saw the movie. Arms folded. Third row. In the first several scenes, my worst fears had come true— yes, the film was exactly like the trailer. Then, bit by bit, scene by scene, the story began to surprise me. My arms unfolded. I relaxed. I laughed. The characters were real. And the acting— superb. I know that lead Ellen Page is getting the lion’s share of the praise (she was the only one nominated for an Independent Spirit Award), but the rest of the ensemble possibly give stronger performances than she does. Michael Cera is astonishingly natural (and understatedly funny). And one thing I love about the screenplay is the relationship between him and his baby-mama Juno: they’re just friends. They had sex once. But the script doesn’t dwell on any “what are we gonna do!” madness.
And then there are Juno’s parents played by Allison Janney (The West Wing)and J. K. Simmons (he plays Peter Parker’s editor at the newspaper in the Spiderman movies) who give stellar performances. And, finally— if I can think of another superlative—there is Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, who steal the show: both magnificent. It’s the Garner storyline in particular that, in the final analysis, won me over on Juno. As with all great movies, it’s not just the beating of one single note: but an array of subplots and minor characters whose lives are affected by the lead character’s trajectory that make for an ideal movie experience. We see how Juno is affecting so many people’s lives. And, in her separate relationships with the Garner and Bateman characters, we see an evolution in her understanding of human nature. And again, how many movies about teen pregnancy do you know that aren’t about what a big, dumb mistake it is. Juno is practically matter-of-fact about the pregnancy itself. Instead it’s about the world we live in. Its about how less screwed up Juno is in light of how more screwed up the adults are around her. And it’s about how everything can be okay, no matter how bleak the outlook.
OSCAR UPDATE: Juno was nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Diablo Cody won a well deserved Best Screenplay Oscar for her witty and honest writing in Juno. She gave a moving acceptance speech thanking her amazing director (Jason Reitman), lead actress (Ellen Page), and her mom for "accepting me just the way I am."