Juno

I’m not all guns and explosions, y’know. Sometimes I just feel like chilling out, lounging on a chair and affecting a pipe for some reason. Strange then that the titular character from “Juno” likes to do the same thing…

Juno (2007)

I was close to giving up on “Juno”, I really was. The first ten/fifteen minutes did nothing to endear themselves to me. It was screaming “For the love of God, like me!” so loud it was insufferable. It was like a drunken party girl feverishly snogging your face off, just so she’ll forget she has daddy issues for a brief moment. OK, maybe that’s a bit too obscure- but what I’m trying to say is that the film was trying so hard to get me to empathise with the characters it actually got a bit distracting. Hang on, I’ll tell you more after the obligatory plot summary and general actor comments…

“Yeah, I’m a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale.”

The story is about Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a 16 year old girl who suddenly faces an unplanned pregnancy due to a “bored” night with her not-boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After realising she can’t go through with an abortion, she decides to give the baby to a childless couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). The story actually surprised me, which says a lot considering I’m hardly ever surprised by films anymore. Ellen Page is really good as Juno. She handles the possible problems with the character (i.e. treating the whole teenage pregnancy thing too lightly) with tremendous skill and surprising heart. I thought Michael Cera was great too, even though he was playing an only slightly deeper version of his character from “Superbad”.

Back to that opening quarter of an hour or so. The thing I didn’t like about it was the fact that everything from the overuse of hipper-than-thou indie tracks to the obnoxious dialogue was unbelievably annoying. I get the feeling the film was expecting me to think “Like OMG! Juno is such a free spirit with her sarcasm, hamburger phone and pipe smoking! She is fo’ shizz zany- she’s sooo like me!” To be honest, I was hit with the “Look! She’s so kooky!” hammer so many times I started to feel a little punch-drunk. However, I started to warm to it after that. After the credits rolled I realised that maybe the film wanted me to feel that way and that it was in on the joke with me, which cheered me up no end.

The film played two nice tricks on me. One of them being the one above and the second was to be found in Jason Bateman’s character. Throughout the film we are made to side with him- after all, he’s a cool guy, he likes horror films and it seems like he’s a bit downtrodden by his control-freak wife. Later in the film- we are betrayed, as Juno is, by the revelation that he doesn’t believe he’s ready for fatherhood. It’s rare to see a film do this sort of thing and it’s really refreshing to see.

There were some really moving scenes too. The scene where Juno tells her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) is very well written and brilliantly acted. It’s very warm and gives us an actual insight into the three characters’ relationships. I was slightly disappointed when J.K. Simmons didn’t instantly sprout a flat-top haircut and moustache and start demanding pictures of Spider-Man, however. The most moving scene though is when Juno is comforted by Paulie in the hospital after giving birth. Gone was the snappy dialogue and gone were the increasingly strange quirks that every character just had to have (Orange Tic-Tacs?) and in their place was left something much more believable and endearing.

“I’m dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”

On paper, I should hate “Juno”. It’s so indie it hurts, for one. For two, all that post awards buzz and the Oscar win has almost completely overshadowed the film itself. For three, well- it doesn’t have any guns and explosions. However, once I waded through all the faux sharp lines and supposedly cool soundtrack I found something I could connect with- a great coming-of-age story with some actual humanity to it.


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