Juno (2007)


Pregnancy Can Often Lead to an Infant

I did my best to keep at arm’s length from this movie for no reason other than it seemed artsy and pretentious.  As we know from my review of Rushmore, I don’t like those movies.  The movie getting talked about so much did nothing to make me want to see it before I was reviewing movies, but now that I am it seems like it’s not the wisest stance to not want to see movies because they’re popular.  That being the case, I finally allowed today’s movie to reach the top of my Netflix queue.  This movie stars a lot of people that I’m fond of, but was written by someone I’ve no interest in, so let’s see how it worked out.  Juno was written by – and it pains me to type this – Diablo Cody, directed by Jason Reitman, and starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson, Valerie Tian, Kaaren de Zilva, and Sierra Pitkin.

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a 16-year-old high school student in Minnesota with a bit of a problem on her hands … or, more accurately, in her womb: she’s preggers.  Having decided on a whim to have sex with her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) has left her eating for one more person than she’s used to.  Her original idea is to get an abortion, but she changes her mind once she finds out that her baby has fingernails and the receptionist’s boyfriend’s dick smells like pie.  She joins her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) in searching through the Pennysaver to find someone to give the baby to.  She finds Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), and decides they are the perfect couple to give her baby to.  We’ll see how well that works out.  As far as I’ve heard, underage teenage pregnancies tend to work out pretty well.

I’m beginning to wonder about my mood recently, because it seems like it’s been a while since I last watched a movie that I found funny.  The last one was probably Cliffhanger.  Either way, I can’t say that I found this movie that funny, but it did play quirky very well.  The story of the movie was pretty good, but did not have any surprises that I could see.  You know that Juno isn’t going to go for the abortion because that would mean the movie would be pretty well over in the first 15 minutes.  You can easily assume a happy ending to most of these kinds of movie, and you get it here.  It works out mostly like I thought it would.  They throw a couple of speed bumps down along the way for Juno, but nothing too serious until the very end, and even that doesn’t really change the course of the movie.  I did wonder how the adoption thing would turn out, though.  When we first met Mark and Vanessa, it made it a little harder to predict the ending of the movie.  The most obvious happy ending would be that Juno would decide to keep the baby, Bleek would marry her, and then happily ever after … but not for Mark and Vanessa.  That’s not the way they went, but they did tie it up to be a pretty happy ending for everyone.  I had problems with the dialogue, though.  It really got on my nerves in parts.  Maybe Diablo Cody and her friends would confront a 16 year old pregnant girl with a phrase like “That’s one doodle that can’t be undid, home skillet”, but most people would think it in poor taste and worse vernacular.  I certainly wouldn’t spend any time around someone that would say that.  I like Ned Flanders too, but I don’t talk like him.  They said more of these stupid little sayings in the beginning, but it was greatly toned down by the end, to the movie’s benefit.  The look of the movie was also interesting, usually being pretty colorful and with tons of little knick-knacks around the sets for the audience to look at.  I particularly liked the opening credit scene that seemed mostly hand drawn.  It was a nice look, but it made me think that whoever was responsible desperately wants to be Wes Anderson, and I don’t use that as a compliment.  I would generally think something along the lines of “take your shitty, pretentious bullshit elsewhere and make a movie”, but it was toned down to a level that wouldn’t annoy me for this movie, and I appreciated that.

The cast was all fantastic, but the characters were sometimes written in a way that made them tedious.  But you can’t really blame that on the actors.  I always like Ellen Page.  She usually gives very real performances, and this movie also shows that she can pull some funny along with the tears I’ve seen her pull before.  I did find Juno herself a little irritating at times.  I understand that she was playing a 16-year-old, but she seemed really stupid at times.  Her first conversation with Mark and Vanessa particularly, where she took “How far along” to mean “In school” and not in the pregnancy that was causing them all to meet, was cute.  I was also particularly annoyed with her misinterpretation of Greek and Roman mythology, but I blame this mainly on a certain stripper-turned-writer.  Juno claimed that her name was not from the city in Alaska, but from the Greek god that was married to Zeus.  WRONG!  Juno is the ROMAN name for the goddess Hera.  Hera was married to Zeus, but if you’re talking about the Roman versions of the gods, Juno was married to Jupiter.  I didn’t research that shit, so if you did to name your character, you should be embarrassed.  It also never made sense to me that Juno had such a hard time understanding what “sexually active” meant.  It means you are active sexually.  Not much more needed than that.  Michael Cera was a pretty small part of the movie, and he didn’t really do a lot of work in the parts he was in.  The character he plays (and seemingly the character that Michael Cera actually is) is not a very emotional person, so it’s understandable that he never had any really big freak out moments.  At the end, I did find out that Cera has a really bad singing voice.  Ellen’s was fine.  Jason Bateman was a good character in the movie, but I didn’t really appreciate the hints of his attraction to 16-year-old Juno.  If you’re going down that path, do it and get some story out of it.  But if you’re only going to hint at it and have them dance and get awkward, don’t even bother.  I’m not usually a Jennifer Garner fan (because I’ve seen Daredevil and Elektra) but I liked her in this movie.  She was mostly fairly cold and distant, but she has a couple of really good emotional scenes and seemed very real in them.  J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney were also very good as Juno’s parents, and I especially liked Allison Janney when she laid down a real classy verbal beatdown on the ultrasound technician.  I felt like they missed a good joke opportunity with Simmons, though.  Early on, he claims that he’ll punch Bleek in the dick if he sees him.  By the end, when he does see him again, he just walks on by.  That would have been a fantastic addition.

The charm of this movie elevates it higher than the somewhat predictable story and some of the poor dialogue would normally have made it.  Some of the charm comes from the writing, but I feel like the greater majority of it is from the fantastic cast.  In the end, I found myself to be much more fond of this movie than I had expected I would be going in (especially going in having already seen Jennifer’s Body), but I can’t say that I ever found it “funny”.  Then again, I may be comedically broken.  I haven’t a clue where I left my sense of humor, but I’ll get back to you.  Either way, Juno is at least worth a rental, if not a full purchase.  Juno gets “I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?” out of “Honest to blog?”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

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