Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Ellen Page ………. Juno MacGuff
Michael Cera ………. Paulie Bleeker
Jennifer Garner ………. Vanessa Loring
Jason Bateman ………. Mark Loring
Olivia Thirlby ………. Leah
J.K. Simmons ………. Mac MacGuff
Allison Janney ………. Bren
Rainn Wilson ………. Rollo
When it comes to comedies, 2007 has been one of the stronger years as of late for the genre. And it’s interesting to note that the year’s two finest comedies have revolved around an unplanned pregnancy. It’s interesting to note how both films have treated the subject. Knocked Up featured Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl dealing with the consequences of adults in the situation juxtaposed around some raunchy blue humor revolving around two people trying to make it work for the sake of a child. Juno deals with the consequences of teenage pregnancy juxtaposed with razor-sharp wit and tight drama revolving around two people truly in love trying to make it work despite the pregnancy.
Ellen Page stars as the titular character, a high school junior whose one-time fling with her best friend Bleeker (Michael Cera) winds up leaving her carrying his child. Determined to carry the child to term in order to let a couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) adopt it, the film follows Juno from the first stages of pregnancy through the birth of the child. And whereas Knocked Up dealt with the same subject in the sort of crude, raunchy manner a teen sex comedy would deal with it, Juno has the sort of wit to make it an interesting and remarkably funny comedy. And like Knocked Up it has terrific direction and a top-notch script to go along with a sassy and likeable lead performance from its star.
The film is driven by Page, who relishes the role as the sort of smart aleck who’s revered many moons after high school is over but is treated as a sort of outcast during her pre-secondary education. Page really pushes the envelope as Juno, an outcast with the sort of funny bone that isn’t really appreciated at her age. She delivers everything with such a deadpan delivery that the inherent humor in them is much funnier because of it. Page is the main character and the film revolves around her, obviously, but she doesn’t show any of the uneasiness many other young actresses would have in the part. She knows exactly where the character is going and exactly how she wants to portray her; it’s a steady performance that’s shockingly funny and endearing at the same time.
Juno is served by a terrific script that delivers enough comedy to keep the film rolling while delivering a sweat and tender storyline about the trespasses and travails of love. Jason Reitman, who delivered last year’s subversive hit Thank You for Smoking, brings the same style of humor with a softer touch for his sophomore effort in film-making. Unlike many second time directors he has a real deft touch when it comes to comedy; there are a lot of easy jokes he could use but instead goes for the more nuanced humor that takes more than four-letter worlds or bathroom references. While the film suffers a bit from some gutter level jokes that feel a bit crude for a more nuanced character-driven comedy, for the most part it stays above the fray and aims for quality humor.
The film also has the sort of buildup that other Indy comedies were given last year. With a plethora of screenings all across the country for more than a month before the film’s release date, Juno is being poised for the holiday season in the same way Little Miss Sunshine was a year ago as the sort of alternative programming to the prestige picture season. In a season that has plenty of serious dramas, it’s a clever and uproarious alternative.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):