Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)
Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff), Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), Jennifer Garner (Vanessa Loring), Jason Bateman (Mark Loring), Allison Janney (Brenda MacGuff), J. K. Simmons (Mac MacGuff). Directed by Jason Reitman. Screenplay by Diablo Cody. Rating: 15. Running time: 96 minutes.
Juno is the name of both an incredible girl and an incredible film. This is the story of a stupidly clever sixteen-year-old that falls pregnant, and reacts in the most honest of ways. She neither opts for an abortion out of acceptance of convention nor hides the truth from her parents for one minute. She decides she’s going to have the baby and allow a loving couple to adopt it. That’s that, and it’s arranged and wrapped up within the film’s first quarter. What’s left is time for our observation of the pregnancy process and the maturing of Juno that accompanies it. By the end of the film she’s as much of an adult as her parents, and shows enough humanity in the midst of the comedy to make her as a person, and Juno as a movie, to be one of the greatest gifts of the cinematic decade.
Initially Juno feels like it’s almost too hip. The opening credits are so innovative and the music so wonderfully folky, the dialogue excessively fun and the colour and environment so fresh and visually appealing, that it almost feels forced. The burger-telephone is probably the point at which the levels of originality are raised too high. But all these elements that make Juno feel worryingly overdosed at the start are soon brought under control. By the time the plot has taken shape and the scene has thus been set, the screenplay’s treats are being used more sparingly and the music much less frequently. And it works a real treat in making the film feel original without shouting out too loudly about it.
What’s also great is the way Juno interacts with the prospective adoptees. She visits the couple often and enjoys the man named Mark’s company. They revel together in punk rock and little known gore movies, and swap CDs as often as they share ultrasound pics of the baby. The woman is infatuated with motherhood, as Juno lovingly comes to understand when she sees her playing with her friend’s children in a shopping mall.
The point is ultimately, though, that Juno naturally considers herself to be in no position to raise a child, and assumes instead that two people in a relationship that have an extra decade behind them are. Yet it becomes clear in time that Mark is no more ready to be a parent and spouse than Juno is, and wants the same kind of freedom that she has. Age is shown to be insufficient for maturity when it comes to being a parent, because the mentality so prevalent in the young is easily preserved. Juno is severely affected by this realisation, and feels obliged to reflect on her own feelings in light of it. Adulthood now appears a lot less alien to her, and nowhere near as far away from her current level of maturity.
This is thoughtful stuff that’s superbly acted, and yet manages to remain featherlight in the same way Reitman’s Up In The Air does. These are the hardest films to make: contemplative movies that don’t patronise or depress by drowning themselves in their own philosophical grandiosity. Juno the film is not interested in pro-life versus pro-choice battles; it’s interested in a girl who chooses life for the unplanned thing inside her stomach and how this leads to her development. It’s also interested in how this story can be told in an entertaining but compassionate way. It succeeds in doing everything that it intends to.
Filed under: comedy, drama, philosophy of life | 1 Comment
Tags: abortion, adoption, childish, folk, gore movies, jason reitman, juno, maturity, pregnancy, pro-choice, pro-life, punk rock, teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, up in the air