Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Runtime: 96 minutes
The film is about the titular character Juno MacGuff, a 16-year old high school student with some weirdness, who accidentally gets pregnant after she had sex with her best friend Paul Bleeker. After failing to have her child aborted, she decides to give her child to Mark and Vanessa Loring, a well-off couple living in the suburbs, longing to have their child.
In the process of waiting for her child to be born, her relationship with Paul and the Lorings complicate, bringing out the maturity that she needs in handling the situation. Also, we follow her through a series of events involving her family and friends that leads to her childbirth.
It’s actually hard to discuss the plot without enumerating individual events in this film.
The direction creates a breezy pace that perfectly fits the story. Right from the start of the movie, it brings a lively mood to the story, just like the lead character. It creates a pace that is so easy to ride in but we never compromise the intelligence the direction brings to the table. It’s subtle all-around, nothing showy unlike the other nominees this year, but it carries the film with a steady hand throughout the time. Other directors could have emphasized on the humor or too much on the sad side, but the director carefully handles the material and gracefully blends those two elements together. Again, it’s not flashy, and it would take repeated viewings for you to appreciate the direction here, but when you actually see the brilliance, you cannot just take it for granted.
The screenplay is the one that’s getting the spotlight in the film. Sure, nobody talks like this in real life, but it makes you think that “what if we actually talk like this”. Full of cultural references, the film certainly polarized viewers with its screenplay, but it carries the youthful soul of the film. It establishes the ground of this peculiar girl. Juno’s not your ordinary beautiful, somewhat flirtatious girl, no. She’s different, and the screenplay manages to create her a distinction from other girls without making her an alien.
It also has its humane side. The family side of the film, either with Juno and her parents, or with Vanessa and Mark Loring, is just emotionally affecting. Thy feel like they’re real. The screenplay vividly creates this world with lots of humor from outside, and yet, inside, we get something real.
Of course, the screenplay has its flaws. It’s over-the-top, but it goes too over-the-top at times. I know people don’t talk like this, and I don’t hate it. I even love it. Just saying. Okay, I’ll say a very strange dialogue from the film – “What? Honest to blog?” Okay, that makes me laugh while I’m typing this, but that’s too much, okay? Maybe I love it now, but that is a totally unrealistic line that is one of the film’s weaker lines, but the over-all screenplay is damn good and resonating to the younger generations and to the adults alike.
There is no sense of talking about the other technical parts of this film aside from maybe editing and music. This is an independent contemporary film, and there is nothing to mention in any of its technicalities.
The editing is smart enough to be able to juice out everything it can from the screenplay in the span of 96 minutes without feeling contrived or hurried, just perfect. The music provides the backbone of the film. It’s where the screenplay hinges because it defines what the screenplay want to state about the youth and Juno’s soul, and the music perfectly captures the essence of Juno – smart-ass, but humane.
The performances are top-notch.
Ellen Page is great as the titular character. She carries the film even if she has a supporting cast. Her veracity in the scenes, even with some fake-sounding lines, creates an assurance that we will be with her whatever she does throughout the film. She has a quirky exterior, but inside is a girl who doesn’t want things to be screwed up, but through her attitude, she never lets her guard down to the situation. She’s tough when needed, but we also see scenes where she sheds her protection and lets us see the real her.
In an early scene where she placed a living room set in Paul’s lawn, when she said that she’s pregnant and Paul didn’t have an immediate reaction, there is a powerful shot of her somewhat lowering herself, like she was instantly humiliated by that because he might not accept her. She brings back her confidence in the succeeding scenes because she needs to. A lot of people won’t accept her condition because girls like her would mostly have an abortion, so by keeping the baby, she is doing that will definitely create a steam to the people around her. She’s cool at it, but we know she’s just being brave.
But above all of her wonderful line readings, her best moments are where she lets herself out of her comfort zone and shows herself. Confused inside an abortion clinic, the short pause before she says she’s pregnant, her smile as she sees Vanessa playing with other children, or when she stops by the road just for a moment of outburst – all of these show how she made Juno the character her own.
Though the spotlight is definitely on Page, the supporting cast is not to be underestimated.
J.K. Simmons is wonderful as the calm father of Juno, underlining his desire for a better future for Juno while keeping his father figure. Michael Cera is subtle as Paul. He is not actually great, but I could say it was perfect casting. Olivia Thirlby is cool as Juno’s supportive friend. Jennifer Garner is fantastic as the adoptive mother of Juno’s baby, showing a lot of vulnerability without turning her character into a pathetic one-note. Jason Bateman is really good as the immature adoptive father. Allison Janney brings a lot of dignity and fun to her role as Juno’s stepmother.
Definitely a fantastic group of actors.
And with all of the goodness in this film, I can’t actually find something that makes it special or, I would say, awards material. I know, I’m not looking for an awards-bait. I don’t want to raise a comparison between this movie and the other four nominees this year, but with this being an independent contemporary film, though I find it to be mostly fantastic, I don’t know if there is timelessness in it.
That’s my only criticism for this movie. I’m not saying that this is a bad movie, I would never say that. But it’s just that, I will find a hard time remembering the film’s accomplishments because I can’t actually see much that makes this movie special.
For this, the movie gets:
What are your thoughts, dear reader?
I'm definitely hurrying up because we've been stuck with this year for months now. Classes will start tomorrow, but I'll definitely finish this year.