'Juno' Review: The Touching Tale of a Pregnant Girl and Her Hamburger Phone
Saturday, June 21, 2008
There’s no denying that 2007 was a great year for movie lovers. Just look at that year’s Oscar race, in which all of the films nominated for Best Picture could feasibly have won even while so many other films could easily have been nominated in their place.
Though four of those five Best Picture nominees were heavily dramatic, it was the inclusion of quirky comedy Juno that caused the most debate on Internet film forums. While a good portion of viewers found the movie to be nothing if not forcefully odd, those who are fans of fast banter did indeed see a movie worthy of a Best Picture nom.
Juno details the story of the titular pregnant teenager, played by the charming and immensely talented young Canadian actress, Ellen Page. Most memorable prior to Juno as playing a vengeful 14-year-old in the 2005 thriller Hard Candy, here Page shows off her talent with sardonic wordplay as the sarcastic and witty Juno discovers that she’s pregnant and then tries to find an adoptive family for her unborn baby.
Juno finds the perfect couple in a newspaper ad and forges a relationship with the young professionals who will raise her baby: young at heart Mark (Jason Bateman) and A-type Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). By her side as Juno prepares for her birth are a cast of talented comedic actors playing her friends and family -- Superbad’s Michael Cera as the geeky father of the child, Allison Janney as Juno’s step-mother, J.K. Simmons as her father, and newcomer Olivia Thirlby as her best friend who has an eye on much, much older men.
Not one of these performers is wasted, but it’s Ellen Page and Jennifer Garner that really shine. At first, the character of Juno seems nothing if not endlessly sarcastic, someone who handles the pregnancy news with surprising ease. As the story progresses, however, it is soon apparent that Juno’s wit is a way for the character to hide her fears, her sadness and her anger, and Ellen Page shows all of this beautifully. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this movie, and by the end of the film it’s apparent why.
Someone who wasn’t nominated for an Oscar but who should have been was Jennifer Garner. Cast in the role of a deceptively cliché Martha Stewart-type character, Garner infuses her performance with a humanity and warmth that at one key moment can bring tears to even the most hardened heart. Though often wasted in big screen roles, Garner here shows why she’s such a winning talent who deserves more credit than she gets.
Of course, none of the movie's great performances would exist without the now infamous script. Newcomer Diablo Cody wrote the film after a producer found her blog and thought her charming. The former stripper put pen to paper and, through endless pages of cracklingly quick dialogue and a story that goes beyond expectations to really grab viewers’ hearts, earned herself an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Juno is intensely quirky, and I’ll warn you now that if you think Juno talking on a hamburger phone at one point is too falsely “indie” for your tastes, this isn’t the movie for you. For the rest of us, Juno is a unique, laugh out loud, emotionally honest tale of a young girl learning to grow up. It is a fine piece of cinema, hamburger phone and all.
- BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures)