There are an infinite amount of reasons why I loved this movie. I hardly know where to begin.
I’ve heard this movie compared to Little Miss Sunshine because it plays like a comedy, but feels emotionally deep. Ellen Page as Juno is excellent as the tom-boyish smart ass who prefers all things alternative, including her attitude. She is sarcastic and witty and pessimistic about all things, but throughout the movie you catch a glimpse of the little girl inside.
Her default solution is to abort the baby, so she goes to the only abortion clinic in town that doesn’t require parental approval. As she approaches the clinic she sees one lonely protester who is holding a sign, chanting, “All babies want to get borned!” Juno stops to assess the situation, then takes a deep breath and approaches the girl. “Hi Su-Chin,” she says to the girl from her class. Juno continues to tell a smart ass story about behavioral medication, her wit a shocking distraction to Su-Chin, and she slips past into the clinic.
I loved this scene and how it shows the way she uses her smart ass edginess as a schtick to deflect the gravity of her situation. She does this throughout the movie, one time requesting “a Maker’s Mark, up,” when asked by the adoptive couple what she would like to drink. It’s the thing she does to guard her heart, to make her look strong and unaffected.
A review I read somewhere said there is no obvious villain in the movie – it is full of flawed characters and complicated relationships. I agree with this, and find it refreshing. I love that Juno’s father is not absent nor an idiot. Even thought he says some hurtful things to her (in the moment you find out your daughter is pregnant, wouldn’t your guard be down?), but he is a strong dad, and together with her step mom of ten years, Brenda, they team up to support her through her decision to have her baby adopted.
Dad: “When she sat us down to talk did you see this coming?”
Brenda: “Yeah, but I was hoping she was expelled or on drugs.”
Dad: “Or a DWI. Anything but this.”
One subtle but poignant line is when a very pregnant Juno walks into the kitchen and her dad greets her by saying, “Hey there, big puffy version of Junebug!” It’s not a big deal, and I almost didn’t catch what he says, but in that subtle greeting you get a sense that the two are close, and that there is no judgment or tension between them, that many days and weeks have gone by that are normal, and perhaps even mundane.
You get a sense that life has thrown them a curve ball before, but they always manage to get on base
Regarding the script, it is amazing. I thought it was a great film about complicated relationships that didn’t insult my intelligence. Even at certain points when I was sure the absolutely predictable thing was going to happen, the story avoids the melodramatic and stays true to its tone. I love how Juno’s naivety leads her to make certain decisions, but her strong convictions compel her to speak up when they are breached.
Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are great as the adoptive couple. From the previews I thought they were going to be more like caricatures, but they are well played, and provide great secondary plot line that further complicates the situation.
That’s about all I can say without giving anything away. If you’ve seen the movie and are interested in reading my comments on it that contain spoilers, go here for my discussion points on the Arts and Faith discussion board.
As a little piece of extra credit, the screen play was written by a stripper in Minneapolis who started blogging about her experiences as a stripper (just google “Diablo Cody” for the story). A Hollywood talent agent saw her blog and said she had a great ‘voice’ and should consider writing a book, so she wrote “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Here’s a great Wired article about her discovery story, and here is her interview on Letterman for the book: