Movie Review: Juno
By Matthew Huntley
January 8, 2007
I have a feeling a lot of people will love Juno. It possesses an offbeat and irreverent sense of humor, with some good performances and strong emotional beats. But this isn't why people will love it. People, especially young people, will love it because Juno is an outspoken heroine with a satirical and cynical point of view. She's fresh, modern and open-minded. But she can also get on your nerves.
For me, Juno is a movie worth liking, but I didn't love it, and it's not one I'll remember for very long. I guess I expected more since it's ridden such a wave of acclaim upon its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. But, to my dismay, much of the movie is flat just when it thinks it's being witty and edgy.
Ellen Page (Hard Candy) plays the titular character, who tells us, "It began with a chair." The "it" she refers to can be many things, but it's mostly the story of how she fell in love. It's also the story of how she became pregnant at 16. One day, she and her band mate, a pasty, nerdy kid named Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), have sex on a lazy boy in her parent's basement. She claims she performed the act because she was bored, but Bleeker knows she's lying.
Juno initially wants to have an abortion but a protestor outside the clinic tells her the baby already has fingernails, which makes Juno think twice. Her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) suggests putting it up for adoption and the two sift through the local Pennysaver looking for wannabe parents. They find Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), who, for reasons unknown, can't have children of their own. Vanessa wants nothing more than to be a mother, but Mark is less enthused.
During her pregnancy, Mark and Juno strike up a peculiar friendship that borders ever so slightly on romance. He composes music for TV commercials and has a quirky taste in horror movies that Juno appreciates. Their time together makes Juno believe she's doing the right thing, and it was nice to find her character wasn't written as someone who goes back on her decision to give up her baby. That would have been too easy. After learning about a certain decision from another character that I won't reveal, Juno's struggle in the movie comes from not knowing whether true happiness between two people is possible. In a tender scene between her and Vanessa, Juno learns true happiness can, in fact, exist, but she's not certain she'll ever find it.
There are many things to praise in this movie, including Ellen Page's spunky performance. After Hard Candy and now this, her career is on fire and it's plain to see it will only get hotter. Page is funny, cute, smart and quick-witted, but I'm not sure how good of an actress she is. The adjectives I listed describe Ellen Page the person, and so long as she plays herself, she'll succeed in the movie business, but it'd be nice to see her act and become a character outside her own nature.