It seemed to be everyone’s favorite movie of 2007, and since I didn’t get the opportunity to see Juno in the theaters, I was excited to be able to write the review for its DVD release. Would it live up to the high praise that everyone, from fans to critics, had given it? Or would it inevitably fall short, as so many über-hyped movies do?
For those who have been living under a rock for the past five months, here’s the nutshell version of the plot: Juno is a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers she is pregnant. The father of the child is her longtime friend Paulie Bleeker. Paulie and Juno are probably in love, but Juno doesn’t realize it yet. Deciding against an abortion, Juno finds a nice couple in the classified section of the newspaper and decides to give the child up for adoption. Comedy, drama, witty dialogue and strategically placed pop songs ensue.
So for those who haven’t seen it: does Juno live up to the hype, the awards and the nominations? In a word, yes. In two words, “yes, but…” Before I started writing this, I looked on Rotten Tomatoes and saw that the film had a 93% positive rating. I’m going to go ahead and agree with that. This movie was 93% awesome. I’ll get to the other 7% later.
The script, by first time screenwriter Diablo Cody (is one still allowed to use their stripper name when one is no longer a stripper?), is funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. It goes in places I never expected, all the way up to the very end. What could have been a very predictable, by-the-numbers plot ends up being surprisingly fresh and original. That Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay was well deserved.
I know there were some complaints about the language in the movie. Basically, the kids speak in their own sort of slang that was confusing to some, and downright incomprehensible to others. Personally, I think it was pretty cool and gave the film a unique voice all its own. I know quite a few teenagers, and while I’ve never heard them speak in a fashion even remotely similar to the way the kids speak in this movie, I know what it’s like to have a sort of “inside language” that you use among your friends. It worked. More importantly, it never felt forced or unnatural. I suppose a lot of the credit for this has to go to the cast.
Speaking of the cast: they’re awesome. There’s really not a bad actor in the bunch. Extra kudos have to go to Jason Bateman, who brings an unexpected balance to a character that could’ve been played in a very one-dimensional fashion, and to Jennifer Garner, who’s never really impressed me that much before, but is very lovable in this role. Michael Cera is, as usual, fantastic, though I’m starting to get a little tired of him playing almost the same character in every single role he takes. I can’t complain about a good performance though, so I won’t. I look forward to every Michael Cera performance, and this one does not disappoint.
Which brings us to Ellen Page in the title role as Juno. Page plays Juno as though she was a 38-year-old woman trapped in a 16-year-old’s body. Having seen Ellen Page interviewed, I’m convinced that she probably is a 30-year-old woman trapped in a 16-year-old’s body. Here’s the thing about Juno: She’s caustic and witty. She’s ten times more sassy than any character in anything Joss Whedon could ever hope to write. (If you’ve ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, you know what I’m talking about.) While Page’s performance is quite natural, her character toes a fine line between humorously charming and incredibly annoying. By the end of the film, that line has been crossed on more than one occasion, and that’s exactly the 7% I was talking about earlier. Hey, I love a sarcastic know-it-all as much as the next guy, but even I have my limits. It’s just a bit too much. 7% too much, to be exact. Witty comebacks are great, but Juno’s comebacks are far too calculated and run the risk of making her character unlikable. Does it ruin the movie? No, it absolutely does not. Does it distract and make the viewer roll his eyes? In the case of this reviewer, yes, quite a bit.
Aside from my one gripe, I have to concur that Juno does, in fact, live up to the heaps of praise that have been laid upon it. It’s a comedy that ends up being more than a little bit sad, and it’s a drama that’ll make you laugh out loud. Well-rounded characters, great performances and an original plot add up to a great flick that will find a welcome home on your rental queue or perhaps even your DVD shelf.
The DVD has a few extra features which basically amount to a bunch of mini-documentaries about the making of the film, including interviews with the cast, director and writer about the process of bringing the film to the screen. These extras are also well worth your time, and add a welcome insight for those who are seeking further knowledge about the creators and the film.