Plot: Juno (Ellen Page), a sharp witted high school outcast, finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera)- a high school track star with a penchant for orange tic tacks. She agrees to give a childless couple, the Lorings (Jason Bateman & Jennifer Garner), her baby once it's born. Over the next nine months, Juno will get to see beyond the seemingly perfect facade put up by the Lorings, and will also come to terms with her lingering feelings for Paulie.
Review: Boasting a razor sharp script by newcomer Diablo Cody, JUNO is an absolutely terrific coming of age comedy that will likely propel newcomer Ellen Page to stardom. Page has been making a name for herself in the indie world for the past few years, and even had a role in X-MEN 3 as Kitty Pryde- but there's no doubt that Juno is the star making role that will take her to the next level. In less capable hands, the sarcastic Juno might come off as a little precious (the wise beyond her years teenage thing has been done to death), but Page really plays the role beautifully. Probably what makes her so effective in the role is that in her hands, Juno's quick wit seems genuine. This really is Page's film to carry, and if her role had been miscast the film would have been a disaster.
That said, there are a lot more praiseworthy elements in the film than Page's performance, and Cody's terrific screenplay. The supporting cast is absolutely first rate. As a huge ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT fan I have to single out Michael Cera and Jason Bateman. Cera is perfect as the gawky, but loveable object of Juno's affection- Paulie Bleeker. While Juno's pregnant, Paulie, despite being somewhat freaked out by the situation, is always there for her- and you really feel for him once Juno starts cutting him out of her life.
As the potential adoptive parents for Juno's baby, both Bateman and Jennifer Garner do exceptional work. Garner hasn't really had the chance to play too many multi-layered characters on the big screen- as she's usually typecast as the kick ass, super sexy action heroine. In JUNO, she actually gets to play a human being, and she holds her own with Page, especially towards the end of the film.
In many ways, her on-screen spouse, Jason Bateman, has the most difficult role. At first, his character seems like one heck of a cool guy, exposing Juno to nineties alt rock and Herschell Gordon Lewis films. Later in the film, his interest for Juno begins to evolve into something inappropriate, but to Bateman's credit, he never plays the character as one note, and he is always fairly sympathetic.
As Juno's exasperated, but ultimately supportive parents, both Alison Janney, and J.K Simmons do some great character work. As Juno's father, Simmons is far removed from his role as jail house Nazi Schillinger from OZ (a show that scarred me for life as a teenager).
Fresh of his success with THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO is one hell of a follow up for director Jason Reitman (Ivan's son), and he shows that he's got a great range, and perfectly maintains a comedy/ drama balance that many other filmmakers are not able to pull off. He doesn't pull off any flashy directorial tricks, and gives Cody's script room to breathe.
When Juno gets released in a few weeks, I'd be willing to bet that it will catch on big time with audiences, and will be the sleeper hit of the holiday season. In fact, given the rapturous reception it received at the Toronto Film Festival, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a couple of Oscar nods, specifically Page for lead actress, and Cody for her screenplay.
My Rating: 9.5/10
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