Juno

Juno-poster“Your eggo is preggo, no doubt about it.”

The Scoop: 2007 PG-13, directed by Jason Reitman and starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera and Jennifer Garner

Tagline: A comedy about growing up… and the bumps along the way.

Summary Capsule: High school girl gets knocked up and… you know, just read the Saved! summary, but minus the Jesus stuff.

Drew’s Rating: The old couple next to me didn’t know what “pork swords” means. Is it THAT hard to figure out?

Drew’s Review: It’s funny how movies can speak to you, isn’t it? Without you even expecting it, some films just get in there and grab you where it counts. The Breakfast Club gave voice to a generation of disaffected youth; Rocky spoke to the underdog in all of us. And to hundreds of stranded aliens worldwide, E.T. brought renewed hope… Cr’ul bless you, Mr. Spielberg. And just recently, without warning, my wife and I found Juno talking to us loud and clear.

Of course I’m not an unwed, pregnant teenage girl… those days are, thankfully, well in the past. No, it was the characters of Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) who hit a little close to home for both of us. It’s no secret that my wife and I are at vastly different levels of maturity. I’m a young adult (emphasis on young) who likes comics and transforming robots, has a wardrobe comprised 43% of band t-shirts, and says “dude” a lot. (And unironically.) She’s a young professional who wants to buy a house, is two semesters from finishing grad school, and actually cares about her job. (Can you imagine?) Believe me that I respect her more than words can say for all of those things, but seeing our differences highlighted on the big screen, by actors way more successful than either of us will ever be, was a bit sobering. As you can imagine.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused anyone who hasn’t seen the movie already, let’s recap: Juno (Ellen Page) is your classic outcast, not-goth but not-preppy high school girl. Her clothing is Dr. Who chic, she spouts a constant stream of hipper-than-thou banter, and she’s attractive but not overly made-up. In short, she is awesome. But when Juno and best friend Bleeker (Michael Cera) get bored and do what teens do when they’re bored (i.e., each other), she finds herself both “in a family way” and estranged from her baby daddy just when she needs him most. Still, her father Mac (J.K. Simmons) is as supportive as possible, and when Juno meets potential adoptive parents Mark and Vanessa, things seem perfect… true, Vanessa’s a little stiff, but Mark is cool and fun and has a lot in common with her. Except, is sharing interests with a teenage girl really such a good thing for a thirty-something man preparing for fatherhood? Only time will tell…

There’s so many good things about Juno, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, it’s one of the few movies I’ve ever reviewed that makes me want to cast off the shackles of the oppressive Mutant Meter and hand out a “6” for Quotes, because damn it, there’s just that many good ones. At first I worried Juno would be nothing but a female Napoleon Dynamite (“God, Banana, shut your freakin’ gob!”), but the film’s progression shows her to be way more intelligent and, well, funny. J.K. Simmons is outstanding as always (see: Spider-Man, Thank You For Smoking), just below John C. McGinley in terms of character actors who I idolize and you should too. Meanwhile, Allison Janney conveys the sometimes antagonistic but ultimately caring relationship between Juno and her stepmom in a subtle but effective way, and Jennifer Garner actually does a great job of at first annoying you with her prissiness, but (without altering her character any) completely turning that on its head later on. Kudos.

But after Ellen Page, it’s Jason Bateman who steals the show, both in providing a perfect counterpoint to Garner and letting you inside his character’s head to demonstrate the full impact of his “coolness.” Without giving anything away, you simultaneously feel bad for and want to slug Mark, which to me is the sign of a talented actor. I’ve heard arguments from both sides over whether his “I thought you’d be happy” line indicates potential sketchiness, or if he just means she’d be glad he’s no longer a sellout; I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the latter, but the fact that there’s a debate at all speaks to the subtlety and complexity of both characters. It’s a shame Bateman and Michael Cera don’t have any scenes together, but I’m sure it would have been hard for Arrested Development fans to separate them from their previous characters, so maybe it’s for the best.

If Juno has any faults, it’s that the relationship between Juno and Bleeker doesn’t feel as developed as it probably should. We begin the story with Juno learning she’s preggers, and aside from a couple of very brief flashbacks, it’s all forward from there. With she and Bleeker being incredibly uncomfortable with each other for most of that time, we as the audience don’t really see what Juno likes about him. He’s the coolest person she knows? Why? Michael Cera is definitely talented, but the role is essentially George Michael minus the sense of responsibility, and since he gets barely any screen time until the end, Juno’s feelings for him seem underdeveloped. Don’t get me wrong, both young actors are terrific in expressing their characters’ anger and unspoken feelings in their argument scene; we’re just left wondering where exactly those feelings are stemming from.

In terms of other complaints, there’s been some discussion in our forums that Juno suffers from excessive hipsterishness. I can’t deny it, but it really didn’t bother me, maybe because Juno doesn’t come across as condescending the way so many other similar characters do. (I’m looking at you, Wonderfalls.) Sarcastic, sure, but more young and bored than willfully mean, which makes all the difference. But filmmakers, take note: when you have Rainn Wilson at your disposal, you do not repeat NOT relegate him to a single scene. It just isn’t done. Remember that for next time.

Like I said, Juno appealed to my wife and I in particular because of where we are in life and our respective differences, but I like to think that even without that, we still would have loved it. It’s pretty much what you’d get if you took a Wes Anderson film and stripped it of the slight pretentiousness and half the random surreality. Which in layman’s terms means it rules. I’m sometimes wary about unreservedly recommending indie films that have hit it big because there’s the inevitable backlash of “Do people only like this because it seems cool to like an indie movie?” But in this case, I can honestly say that the hype is justified. Is it a perfect movie? No. But if you don’t walk away having had at least a few good laughs, you’re probably actively looking for a reason to dislike it. And nobody likes that guy. Don’t be that guy.

Kyle’s Rating: She’s worth millions of our man-years

Kyle’s Review: The joys of Juno are probably going to be different for everyone who watches it. For as many people that think the screenplay veers too strongly into super hipster scene talk, there are plenty who think the dialogue is the cat’s bag. And for every man and empathetic woman out there who winces at the sight of Ellen Page, remembering the castration scene from Hard Candy, there are just as many who love her. Where’s my Kitty Pryde solo movie? Make it happen, Marvel!

Amongst my film enthusiast friends, it came down to Juno and No Country for Old Men for the vaunted ‘Best Film of 2007’ title (At this point, none of us have gotten around to seeing There Will Be Blood, but that film doesn’t hold any real “cool” factor in arguing for it, so it’s probably best ignored). As the pro-Juno force, I generally forestalled arguments by taking the position that I didn’t really care about proving Juno better. It was more important to me that I wanted to see Juno again and again, whereas after one viewing I was done with No Country. There are plenty of films I can find nihilistic world truths in, but it seems like there are a much smaller number that capture Life, or more specifically Life as It Should Be, in such a successful way. Juno forever!

Common complaints are that Juno doesn’t speak like anyone ever born, nor do her friends and family react to her and her situation in a “normal” way. Um, isn’t that the point? A realistic take on teenage pregnancy and resultant family dynamics is a film for the Lifetime channel. A surreal story of a happily eccentric girl and the reality she carves out for herself (nothing says “I dig you” like setting up living room furniture on a boy’s front lawn) is a film for the ages.

Much like its predecessor-in-tone-if-not-spirit, Thank You for Smoking, you need to recognize that the worlds these films inhabit are like ours, albeit perhaps with a little more acceptance of the ironically pragmatic. There is much less yelling, and much more laconic wit, on essentially everyone’s part. Their search for meaning is just as personal, but begin from a quieter place of inner wisdom, or at least appears to. Mostly, everyone just sounds a lot cooler than we all are. Not that hard to do, honestly.

There really isn’t much to say about the movie, other than that it takes some typical plot twists and approaches them in a much more subdued way, so that the histrionics we prepare ourselves for based on other similar films never actually come, yet we still benefit from the tension of waiting for them to come, and realizing even as they pass without incident that it’s all just buried under the surface and is more powerful, perhaps, for not being spoken.

I could be reading too much into the make-up of Juno. But I doubt it. You don’t cast actors capable of subsuming the drama in lieu of the humor (as soon as two members of the Arrested Development cast were brought in, the film’s fate was set) and not realize that the tone of the film is going to swing towards sarcasm. Ellen Page is allowed to run rampant as a charismatic force of nature and makes the most of it, creating a titular character that effortlessly combines advanced wisdom with vulnerable naiveté. I think her next role will be the real test, as we’ll see if Ellen Page simply had the character of Juno in her repertoire or if she is Juno and Juno is she. I lean more towards “immense personal talent,” myself, but I guess we’ll all find out together (probably in Smart People, which looks like it’s close enough to a Juno vibe to bring in a similar audience yet different enough [Page as Republican: what?] to provide neat contrast). But like Drew hinted at: who cares? Juno rules!

Juno has only gained in legitimate quirkiness by being placed in contrast to other films like it; a sure sign that it is a lasting film of quality versus a cash-in attempt to be cool. I went off to see Charlie Bartlett, expecting a similar quirky look at high school life via a male perspective, but got instead a lame and typical quirky-plot-by-numbers that clearly reads as written by stagnant writers relying on what has come before to tell a standard story. Juno tries new things and would deserve accolades on that alone: the fact that the stellar cast and the absolutely incredible Page deliver on the attempts at cinematic innovation makes it all worthwhile.

I tried to go “professional” here, when my preferred tact would have been relentlessly positive screeching. If you haven’t seen Juno yet, you really are missing out on a very fun, winningly quirky film whose mainstream success shouldn’t dissuade you from thinking it’s as true to the “indie spirit” as we claim it to be. It’s a cool scene, man, and no matter how old you are you should see it as not a cool movie but a film about inherently true and ultimately cool characters. Dig that Juno!

Courtney’s Rating: No rating.

Courtney’s Review: This is my life, minus the whole I’m-having-a-baby-but-I’m-giving-it-to-this-uptight-yuppie-and-her-husband-who-may-or-may-not-be-a-potential-pedophile thing.

I absolutely adore this movie. It has that indie charm without being too in your face about it. The plot hits close to home (my second-cousin who can’t have children is an adoptive parent; also, there was at one point 17 pregnant girls at my high school – that’s how we do it in Jersey.) And the writer used to be a stripper. It’s just all wonderful fun!

However, Juno also made my life a bit of a hell. You see, our protagonist (named Juno, just like the movie – weird, huh?) is a fast-talking girl with a smarmy sense of humor which mirrors my own. She constantly makes obscure pop culture references and uses slang with a dead pan whenever applicable. This is all very terrible, because I’m just like that. So it used to be that when I’d joke with people, they’d just scratch their heads and ignore me. I liked it that way. Now they accuse me of trying to be like Juno. Seriously, dude, Double-Yoo Tee Eff? That’s just how I am, and maybe I’m not the only person in the world who’s like that, but somebody else who’s like that happened to write a screenplay about a girl who’s very much like that because the writer put a lot of her own personality in the heroine and the movie just happened to be super popular, okay? Maybe lots of times, we see people acting like movie characters because movie characters are based off of characteristics in real people and it’s not really a conscious thing for those people because they don’t know that somebody happened to make up a character with similar traits! Maybe I’ve been like this for a good while before I’d ever even heard of the movie because that’s just how I am and in all honesty, Diablo Cody and I should be friends and we probably would be had we attended the same high school at the same time, ’cause she’s just cool like that. I am NOT trying to be like Juno MacGuff!

I’m trying to be like Lorelei Gilmore.

But that aside, let’s talk about why I loved this movie. Firstly, if you couldn’t tell by my rant, I really related to Juno. She is just so cool, and in all the ways that I’m not like her, I wish I was (except I’d use contraceptives. Let’s remember that.) And Ellen Page is tremendously awesome. I would love to see more positive role models for young girls like her. To top it off, she’s genuinely funny. I don’t think anybody else could have pulled off what she did, especially as a relatively unknown actress in a lead role.

I also love everyone else in the film. Mac and Bren are great parental-types. They have this devotion to loving and caring for Juno despite the trouble she’s in, but they’re not overly sappy like the 7th Heaven parents or anything. This is cool. Movie parents are never like this. And who doesn’t love JK Simmons or Allison Janney? Bleeker is adorable; I totally fell in love with him. He is, to put it in Juno’s own words, “totally boss.” And I loved watching Michael Cera and Page together. Juno’s best friend Leah reminds me of my own best friend (more ways that Juno is just a variation on my own adolescence.) I think it’s especially cool that she’s a cheerleader, but she so doesn’t act like the stereotypical popular girl. I like it when stereotypes are broken. This is always endlessly awesome.

Then there are the adopters (or are they adoptees?) Vanessa and Mark. Okay, why did nobody ever tell me that Jennifer Garner could actually act, for one thing? She is fantastic and was stupendously snubbed by the Academy! Anyway, these are the characters that I really liked most because they’re exceptionally dynamic. You start off really liking Mark and thinking he’s a cool guy, and you get the impression that Vanessa’s just got a stick up her butt. By the end of the film, you’ve got completely new opinions of them, but the characters never change. They’re pretty much just the same. But you can feel so differently about them. Folks, that right there is proof of fantastic character-development!

Of course, the film is quotable forever, and it’s got a great soundtrack. But it’s really the heart and conviction of the filmmakers that I think made Juno such a great hit. From what I’ve read, Jason Reitman stayed very true to Cody’s original script, which is rare but pretty awesome, and I think they made a near-perfect movie together. It’s quirky, it’s colorful, it’s fun, and it references hobbits and The Goonies in a single line. What more could you want?

justinbanner

Justin’s Rating: A third trimester of belly laughs

Justin’s Review: I think I can safely skip past the whole “reviewing the movie” thang – the only vital information you need to know is that this is a pretty smart, funny and entertaining film that’s not without a few detractors. But since a lot of the focus and critical analysis of Juno seems to boil down to examining the characters themselves, I thought I’d do just that:

Juno: Juno’s one of those Ferris Bueller-type characters that I simultaneously like and dislike, sometimes for the same reasons. I never felt like she was anything approaching a “real” person, but instead a very witty idealization of what writer Diablo Cody imagines herself to be. I don’t have a problem so much with her peppering of hip slang and her inability to talk like normal humans talk in any conversation she’s in, so much as that she’s bordering on a type of smarmy “I’m way cooler than all of you” attitude that almost tips the scales from likable to repulsive. Here’s a movie about a teenage girl who gets accidentally preggers, and for the most part she treats it as an opportunity to whip up some new one-liners. That said, she is constantly entertaining and unique, she has a few moments of true humanity, and – most importantly of all – for all her snappy lingo, her attitude and actions nail a naïveté of a teenager who thinks she knows it all, but she is incredibly clueless about some things. Like how sex might lead to pregnancy. Whodathunkit?

Bleeker:

      Out of all of the characters, this one stumps me. He’s simply not interesting, nor shows any reason why he’s so deserving of Juno’s constant adoration and attraction. I like Michael Cera a lot, but he goes through this film almost sedated, doesn’t do much to add to the plot, and is just a vague mystery why this is Juno’s dream hunk. Because he runs and eats orange tic-tacs? Please.

Juno’s Parents: They’re… odd, and you can see where Juno gets her offbeat personality from. For the most part they’re pretty loving and supportive of Juno and her womanly issue, although they kind of reminded me of stoned hippies who couldn’t be bothered to rouse from their drug-induced coma to act like real parents. Bren (the step-mom) has a great scene trying to explain to Juno why it’s not appropriate for Juno to be hanging with an older married guy (and here we see Juno’s ignorance shine), and then has another scene where she verbally beats down an ultrasound technician who makes a little aside. That scene I have an issue with, because the technician has a legitimate point – a baby being raised by a single teenage mother is not often stable or ideal – but it comes across as if the technician is being judgmental and Bren leaps all over that. We’re supposed to go “you go girl!” to Bren, and props to her being protective of her step-daughter, but… the situation and response doesn’t quite work, and made me like Bren a little less because of it.

Mark: The way Juno wants you to see the relationship and characters of Mark and Vanessa like a seesaw, with Mark high up with the likability/sympathy at the start of the film and Vanessa way down, then shifting to tilt the other way by the end. Although we find Mark to be initially attractive as a character – laid back, plays music, likes cult films (!) – we eventually discover that he is a man-child who refuses to grow up, sort of hits on Juno, and breaks his marriage because he’s all about his own needs. It’s hard to say “Yay Mark!” at the end of all this, yet I’d argue that Mark isn’t quite the devil the film makes him out to be. If you look at Mark and Vanessa as a couple, another seesaw presents itself: initially it’s high up with stability, strength and support, but the more we learn, the more the film tilts the other way until we finally see that this is a highly mismatched, dysfunctional couple. For all of a self-centered, childish coward that Mark is revealed to be, the blame isn’t 100% on his shoulders – he’s absolutely right when he points out how much Vanessa has boxed his life into just little sections of the house, how her dominant personality is making no effort to be a cooperative partnership. It’s kind of her way or the highway, and I feel for Mark and his need not to be trapped. This isn’t a relationship of similar goals or compromises, but mostly a lie two people tell each other and themselves to not fall apart.

Vanessa: Like I said, initially you don’t like Vanessa too much – she’s anal-compulsive, overly fussy, and a little too unfamiliar with how messy the real world is. But Jennifer Garner absolutely shines in a couple scenes, such as when she gets to feel Juno’s tummy and talk to the baby, and later on as she finds a lot of inner strength to carry on. Still, I’ll put the blame of her marriage failing as much on her as it is on Mark, and that is an underlying tragedy in this film.

If I seem a little too down on these characters, it’s only because they connected with me and made me think a lot about them – hardly a bad thing for movies! I genuinely do like this film, for all its rough edges, and it’s nice to see characters walk on their own path instead of the path of your expectations.

Somehow, speedos seem way more dignified than track shorts. Strange but true.

Somehow, speedos seem way more dignified than track shorts. Strange but true.

Intermission!

  • Olivia Thirlby, who plays Juno’s friend Leah, was brought into the cast through Ellen Page – the two are actual friends in real life.
  • For those not in the know, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera played father and son on the show Arrested Development.
  • It’s true: jocks do love the outcast girls. I think it’s the glasses that really sell it.
  • Red Vines? Not the ideal choice for suicide attempts. Maybe Twizzlers.
  • When our dog had to be put to sleep, I called the vet on my Sports Illustrated sneakerphone.
  • If my junk was pie flavored, I’d want it to be pumpkin. Mmm, pumpkin!
  • I now know what a “Les Paul” is. Thanks, Guitar Hero!
  • Juno is named after a Roman goddess, but when explaining it to Mark she uses “Zeus,” the Greek name of Juno’s husband Jupiter.
  • A lot of Sonic Youth songs were just a bunch of noise, weren’t they?
  • Oh, Leah. Don’t we ALL wish our funbags would get bigger?

Groovy Quotes

Rollo: Well, well… if it isn’t MacGuff the crime dog. Back for another test?
Juno: I think the last one was defective. The plus sign looked more like a division sign. I remain unconvinced.
Rollo: This is your third test today, Mama Bear. Your eggo is preggo, no doubt about it.

Rollo: You better pay for that pee-stick when you’re done with it. Don’t think it’s yours just because you marked it with your urine!

Rollo: So what’s the prognosis, Fertile Myrtle? Minus or plus?
Juno: There it is. The little pink plus sign is so unholy. [shakes the test]
Rollo: That ain’t no Etch-a-Sketch… this is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.

Juno: When I see them all running like that, with their things bouncing around in their shorts, I always picture them naked, even if I don’t want to. All I see is pork swords.

Juno: You should try Adderall.
Su-Chin: No thanks. I’m off pills.
Juno: Wise move. I know this girl who had a huge crazy freakout because she took too many behavioral meds at once. She took off her clothes and jumped into the fountain at Ridgedale Mall and she was like “BLAAAH, I’M A KRAKEN FROM THE SEA!”
Su-Chin: I heard that was you.
Juno: ….well, it was nice seeing you.

Receptionist: Would you like a free condom? They’re boysenberry.
Juno: No thanks. I’m off sex right now.
Receptionist: My boyfriend wears them every time we have intercourse. It makes his junk smell like pie.

Juno: And the receptionist tried to give me these weird condoms that looked like grape suckers and she told me about her boyfriend’s pie balls, and Su-Chin was there and she told me the baby had fingernails. Fingernails!
Leah: Oh, gruesome. I wonder if the baby’s claws could scratch your vag on the way out?

Leah: All right, how about this one? “Healthy, educated couple seeking infant to join our family of five. You will be compensated. Help us complete the circle of love.”
Juno: Yeesh, they sound like a cult! Besides, they’re greedy bitches, they already have three kids.

Juno: Ick! I don’t want to give my baby to a couple who describes themselves as “wholesome.” I was looking for, maybe, a thirty-something graphic designer with a cool Asian girlfriend who kicks ass on the bass guitar, but I don’t know, I don’t wanna get too particular.

Mac: You’re pregnant?
Juno: I know, I know. And if it’s any consolation I have heartburn that is radiating to my kneecaps and I haven’t taken a dump since like Wednesday. Morning.

Mac: Next time I see that Bleeker kid I’m going to punch him in the wiener.

Juno: Bleeker is actually good in… chair.

Juno: So have you and Vanessa thought of a name for the baby yet?
Mark: Well, sort of. Vanessa likes “Madison” for a girl.
Juno: “Madison”? Isn’t that kind of… I don’t know, gay?

Bleeker: I still have your underwear.
Juno: I still have your virginity.
Bleeker: Shut up.

Juno: Uh, dad?
Mac: Yeah?
Juno: Either I just wet my pants, or…
Mac: Or?
Juno: Or… Thundercats are GOOOO!!!!!!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Saved!
  • Rushmore
  • Knocked Up
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