"Juno"; a film review by Gary Chew
Ellen Page will be 21 in February. Roe v Wade will be 35 in January. A celebration is due before these events with the release of "Juno," directed by Jason Reitman, who did the libertarian film, "Thank You For Smoking" (2005).
"Juno's" script is by a woman only 8 years older than Ms. Page. The screenwriter's name is one that will surely be spoken more in the future: Diablo Cody, a straight-talking gal who once wrote for David Letterman, worked as a stripper and has a cat she calls Douchepacker.
Juno MacGuff (Page, who looks like Rose Byrne's little sister) is 16 in the film. She's very nearly a carbon copy of Thora Birch ("American Beauty") in "Ghost Story" (2001). So lippy, so cute and so hip you can almost stand her. Boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) and Juno DO it. It's their first time. And, as I've heard it said before, "It only takes once." Bingo! Juno is prego!
She's pretty cool about it actually for a girl of 16. Paulie is sort of zoned-out and really seems not very aware of the serious turn in their relationship; not an unusual way for a teenaged boy to be---if I remember correctly.
"I'm calling to procure a hasty abortion," Juno tells the curious receptionist answering phones at the clinic. But Juno has another notion after arriving for the procedure.
Most of "Juno" pursues that notion: finding appropriate parents to adopt the baby. The prospective, non-biological mom and dad would, of course, foot the bills and lend their support to young Juno.
Jennifer Garner ("Alias") and Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development") are the parents-to-be (Vanessa and Mark Loring), both more socio-economically advantaged than Juno's mom and dad. They're played to the hilt by Allison Janney ("The West Wing') and J. K. Simmons ("The Closer"). Both Bren and Mac MacGuff are very unhappy with their daughter's pregnancy but still show the girl love and support. And Mac isn't as nasty toward Paulie as you might think a dad would be, either.
Another character to behold in "Juno" is Leah, played by another young actor who may become more familiar as well. Her name: Olivia Thirlby. Leah is much like the pretty 'little' girl Scarlett Johansson played in "Ghost World" alongside Thora Birch.
Nerdy Rainn Wilson ("The Office," "Six Feet Under") gives early laughs in the movie as a pushy Quicky-Mart attendant talking trash at Juno as she buys, then employs a pregnancy test applicator in the store's ladies' room. Some fun here. Dialogue: quick and slicing. ("Juno" is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language. The nearest the dialogue gets to the f-word is Nicholson's famous first utterance: freakin".)
The plot for "Juno" evolves through the relationships the pregnant girl develops with Vanessa and (mainly) Mark and what effect Juno's connection to the parents-to-be has on the film's finish.
Along with gay and lesbian issues, pro-life and pro-choice attitudes engender more social dissension in this country than any of the many on the list. That makes "Juno" a genuine experience, as the film doesn't preach either side of the argument while navigating to closure without ugly rancor.
Just ahead (next year), look for a television series called "The United States of Tara," starring the indefatigable and great Toni Collette. Ms. Cody is the writer and one of the producers. The man listed as the creative and consulting producer has a name you most surely will recognize: Steven Spielberg. The pilot is in pre-production as we speak.
With Spielberg, Collette and Cody, we may have a sitcom on our hands thats genuinely funny with something to say, as does the feature film, "Juno," Oscar buzzing its way into the holidays.