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Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Diablo Cody
Produced by: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick and Russell Smith
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

While the teen comedy genre has been littered with the fine works of directors like John Hughes and Paul Weitz, most entries are poorly written and acted affairs that fail to capture the world of teenagers. With Juno, director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody have managed to create a realistic portrayal of teenage life without being dreary or overly artsy. The intent of Juno is to tell the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who deals with a responsibility "way beyond her maturity level" and the people around her who care. The filmmakers succeed in not only creating the most realistic teenage comedy ever produced, but also in bringing characters who the audience trusts and knows. Juno is down-to-earth and grounded in reality, never over-the-top and intelligent enough to not rely on cheap gags to gain laughs. The naturalist feel of the actor's performances also gives the film a sense of being there with the characters as they charm the audience with their whimsy. Juno is bold and smart and is always entertaining and comfortable.

Juno McGuff (Ellen Page) has found out she is pregnant with the child of her on-again, off-again boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After choosing against aborting the infant, she chooses to give it to a young couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). That's a gist of it, but what makes the simple plot so winning is the material provided to the ensemble cast, who works with some of the freshest dialogue ever afforded to a teenage film since Alexander Payne's Election. Diablo Cody does not rely on the quirky to make her screenplay succeed, because the characters feel so real and while the dialogue to some may seem odd, it is able to realistically show the vocabulary that teenagers speak every day to their peers. The subtlety of Jason Reitman's direction adds to the scope of reality by not over-doing it and allowing the characters to speak for themselves. Reitman is intelligent to not let the environment take over and he commands control of the production. Even the clothes worn by Juno and her friends reflect themselves. Juno's baggy trousers and loose clothings represent her independent and free mind as well as the gap between child and adult-hood. Paulie's running uniform signifies his attempts at running free like Juno, while Leah (Olivia Thirlby), Juno's best friend, tends more towards Uggs and other commercial clothes, showing how she attempts to blend in with the crowd rather than be herself. Even Mark Loring starts to evolve into more juvenile clothes as he gets closer to Juno. It is this attention to detail that makes Reitman's direction succeed with ease.

The performances from the ensemble all serve as excellent portraits of Diablo Cody's characters, managing to bring the right amount of warmth to each part. Ellen Page is the stand-out, shining in every scene and showing that there is a little bit of Juno in all of us. She has spunk, heart and plenty of humour making her one of the best written and acted young female roles to ever grace the screen. The chemistry with Michael Cera adds even more to the power of the character. Michael Cera is known mostly for playing meek, awkward characters, but in Juno, he goes even beyond his role as George Michael Bluth on the comedic masterwork Arrested Development. Cera plays Paulie with both strength and courage, making him a great companion for Juno and a scene where he confronts her is pure genius on the part of both Cera and Cody. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are equally as good, helping in making their character's conflicts and differences un-forced. As Mark evolved throughout the film, so does Bateman who develops the character in key with Cody's writing.

The only aspect of the film where Reitman and Cody depart from reality is actually a smart choice. Nowhere in the film is a character shown talking on a cellular telephone, the opposite of today's world where every single teenager appears to be talking into their hand. The absence of such a device expands on the theme of innocence that Juno displays. In an age where teenagers are trying to grow up too quickly, Juno is given the ultimate test of female adulthood by carrying an un-born child in her pouch. In yielding this responsibility and promising to give it to a loving couple, she grows as a character into realising that she is still a child herself and decides to wait a while before she grows up. The touching and poignant final scene, a guitar duet between Juno and Paulie, shows that she needs to hold onto her youth just a little longer before it disappears like track runners rushing to the finish line. Despite the massive popular success that Juno has deservedly received, it is still a small film with a big message at heart.

Juno (Ellen Page) and Paulie (Michael Cera) bond in Jason Reitman's sophomore feature.
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