Rarely has a movie so perfectly bridged the gap between teen comedy and adult drama and done so in such a fully-realised, mature manner as Juno, the story of a 16-year old girl from Minnesota who finds herself pregnant after her first night of sex with her soul mate.
Ellen Page, who landed on my “star of the future” radar with her impressive performance in 2005’s Hard Candy, continues to blaze her way to the pinnacle of Hollywood success with her turn as Juno MacGuff, a wisecracking teen who opts to carry her child to term and then hand it over for adoption to a well-to-do yuppie couple played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Working from a terrific clever-as-can-be script by former stripper-turned-journalist Diablo Cody, Juno manages to tackle a sensitive subject, and the difficult choices that go with it, in a wonderfully mature and non-preachy fashion. Accolades are also due for the way it presents Juno’s parents as decent, even-keel folks, and teens as intelligent individuals with greater depth and breadth than simple party animal morons.
Directed by Jason (Thank You For Smoking) Reitman, the son of Ghostbusters Director Ivan Reitman, and smartly casting Michael Cera (Superbad) in the role of newfound father and the cheese to her macaroni, as Juno describes him, this movie will not only make you laugh, but touch you with its compassion and tenderness without ever stooping to maudlin lows or resorting to clichés or stereotypes to tell its story. This is quite possibly the very best film of 2007, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if, come Academy Awards time, Juno walks off with a platter of Oscars. If so, they will be well deserved indeed.
SECOND OPINION | Ariane Sherine ** The modern yet scarily archaic Juno does for Roe what Vera Drake did for Wade, setting us back to a murky and desperate time when unwanted pregnancy meant either birth and shame, or pointed objects. Its eponymous star, a deadpan 16-year-old full of snippy US-speak (“that’s, like, totally lame, dude”), gets knocked up while losing her virginity to her boyfriend Paulie (it’s practically the Immaculate Conception, see) and chooses not to have an abortion because “the baby has fingernails" (yes, because that's a hugely emotive part of the body — I often stare into people's fingernails). So, despite supportive parents and a benign if pointless partner, Juno decides to have the kid and give it up for adoption.
And, thanks to an Oscar-winning anti-choice plotline, her pre-1960s plan goes remarkably smoothly. Short of piling on the pounds (not on her face, only in the right places) and getting a little tetchy, our heroine has a surprisingly easy ride of it. As she leaves the abortion clinic, the wide-eyed picketer calls after her sweetly, "God blesses your precious miracle!", and instead of going postal, Juno's father and stepmother embrace her vaguely mental decision, the latter gushing fondly, "My little Viking!" Most crucially, the infertile couple she chooses are beautiful, intelligent and rich (though the mother is an ambitious career woman — being barren was clearly her punishment, as you can’t have it all).
Even the ending is tidy and convenient. The career woman gets her bundle of joy, while Juno gets to dispose of it, droning, "Paulie didn't want to see the baby. Neither did I. It didn't feel like ours." She doesn't suddenly have the soulwrenching "I can't give it away, I love it" moment — she's way too cool for that. Only a loser would display emotion towards their own newborn child, because as every good pro-lifer knows, compassion should be reserved for unborn foetuses only. Punchy lines (they make you want to punch someone), decent acting and the occasional funny moment make this the smartest anti-choice propaganda film ever made. Hey kids: Juno’s totally rad, and you should be just like her. So, if you get pregnant, don’t rush off to the nasty murdery abortion clinic. Instead, take the sensible option and carry your baby to term. Don’t worry about whether it’s traumatised by the fact that its own mother chose to give it away. Like Juno, you should definitely choose a “closed adoption”, so you’re not allowed to know anything about your own biological child. And remember kids, you'll have signed a legal document, so there's no going back — just treat it as a chance to help out a woman less fortunate than you. Because it's not like she could adopt any other unloved kids out there in care homes who are a few years older.
Ironically, the Roman goddess Juno traditionally represented the interests of women. I felt as though I had morning sickness the whole way through.
THIRD OPINION | Jimi Williams ***** Critics won’t be able to resist saying the following about Juno: 'it’s a real gem of a movie'; 'it’s this year’s Little Miss Sunshine'. But these comments simply don’t do Juno justice. For the sake of Joe Schmo, it is being marketed in the same vein as Superbad for the big sell but it is so much more than that. People might assume that an unplanned pregnancy will pave the way for crude humour and slapstick galore, but that’s really not the case, that’s Knocked Up. Juno is played magnificently by Ellen Page who fully deserves her recent Oscar nomination, and she is supported by a cast that’s bolstered by Michael Cera and Jason Bateman (high five to Arrested Development fans). The dialogue is blisteringly sharp and sprinkles the film with knowing nods to niche culture. The only films that come close to Juno in the teen indie thrills department are Ghost World and Brick. In short, Juno is a superhero...she just doesn’t know it. With her knowledge of Dario Argento movies, great fashion sense and super-cool taste in music she takes on the world. This year’s Little Miss Sunshine? No, Juno is a far superior film.