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When was the last time you were at the theatres and a movie received a standing ovation at the end? When was the last time you heard two people say, on their ways out of the theatre - "This was the best movie I have ever seen?" Those are rare occurrences this day and age, when audiences fail to connect with motion pictures in such an internal way. "Juno" has brought sexy back, so to speak. Both of the incidents referenced above happened during the film, which I consider to be the most quirky cinematic ride since "Thumbsucker", and even more so than that film. Roger Ebert recently named it his favorite film of 2007, and I would be willing to bet a huge percentage of the audience members I saw the film with would agree. Was it my favorite film of 2007? I don't know that I would say it was my favorite, but it will definitely find a place high on the list. It certainly seems to be the most crowd pleasing picture of this year, or any other. The audience fell in love with these characters and were laughing and smiling consistently throughout. Along with "Thank You for Smoking", director Jason Reitman has quickly established himself as a major contender in film, and this little indie pic might just find such much deserved Academy Award recognition. Even if it does not, "Juno" is one of the brightest spots of the year, and it creates a whole new dialect.
When 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) finds out she's pregnant, her first thought is that she needs to get it taken care of as quickly as possible. She tells her best friend, Leah (Olivia Thirlby), and the father of the child, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), but no one else. When she can't go through with the abortion, she decides to have the kid and give it to a loving couple, who turn out to be Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) Loring, a wealthy yuppie couple who seem pleasant and secure on the outside, but have an internal struggle going on at home. Her father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney) are supportive, but never shy away from reminding Juno what got her in this situation. The film takes place over the course of three seasons, as Juno goes through her pregnancy, facing all sorts of new emotions and experiences. People change over this period of time also. The bottom line is that Juno knows she is not capable of being a mother and wants the child to be with someone who is both capable and willing. While pregnant, she starts to see things in totally different ways, unmasking feels for people she didn't know were there. She also gets plenty of time to make off color remarks on just about everything. While this is a comedy, it possesses quite a few moments of absolute uncontrived sweetness that really work.
The first thing I should point out is the miraculous screenplay from newcomer Diablo Cody. This film basically invents an entire language right before our eyes. These kids talk too smart for some of us, but it never seems forced or corny in any way. Even the parents have this blunt way of saying things that make you cringe at first, but then smile. Right from the get go, you realize you've stepped into a quirky picture, from the upbeat acoustic musical numbers to the sketch drawn opening sequence, to the way Juno stands there at the beginning of the film, drinking her Sunny-D and staring at a beat up old recliner. The heart of the film comes in the relationship between Juno and Paulie, as they wrangle with their feelings for one another. I have never heard so many 'aww' sounds in my life throughout a film, and you can credit Michael Cera for that. Their relationship seems so honest and so sweet, the audience just falls in love. The relationship between Mark and Vanessa is also very interesting, but in a different way. From the time we first meet them, we always have this sense that there is something bubbling beneath the surface, and the more and more Juno interacts with them, the more we see our initial character judgments were all wrong. The way their story is tied up at the end is very satisfying and a perfect bow on this package.
Each and every single performance in this film is so perfect and so well constructed. Ellen Page is phenomenal as Juno, and this film will absolutely be her launching pad to super-stardom. Expect an Academy Award nomination very soon. She deserves it. Michael Cera is also at his dorky best here, turning the character of Paulie Bleeker into the most lovable runner in film history. His scenes steal the show here and he is just too adorable for words. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney provide some hysterical and moving supporting roles and each gets a chance to shine. One of the best scenes in the film comes when Janney confronts a less than polite UltraSound technician. The writing is so crisp and so dead-on, it just makes you remember why you love film. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are well cast as the yuppie potential parents, and the way they handle the changes in their characters is remarkable. Jennifer Garner is especially impressive in her best film role to date. It was nice to see her try something different and succeed. But, in terms of chemistry, I need to once again mention that Page and Cera carry the film. They are so funky and awkward together and they really seem to have affection for one another. When do you see a relationship that starts out the way this one does actually succeed? It's a rare thing. This film is full of rarities.
Before I close, I want to also mention the soundtrack, which features new music from Matt Messina, some of the goofiest and most endearing songs I have heard in a while. They set the tone of the entire film and pop up throughout, reminding us of the roots of the picture. Congratulations to Jason Reitman for stepping up to the plate and knocking another one out of the park, and even besting his first effort. He has stepped out of the shadow of his father, and surpassed him in some ways. Ivan Reitman could never direct anything this satisfying on so many levels. When the final black came at the end of "Juno", there was little hesitation. It started a few rows back, and before I knew it, half the audience was standing and clapping - not just standing to leave. I don't know if I have experienced a standing ovation before outside of a film festival. That might be a first for me too. So, take this with you - "Juno" is, indeed, an amazing film. The more I write about it, the more I fall in love and the more I think it might be the best film of 2007. We'll see when my list comes out. It's just totally entertaining, totally funny and totally satisfying. You'll be quoting lines from the film for all of 2008. It's "Little Miss Sunshine", but better. It just plain rocks.
- added 01/02/2008, 07:07 PM
10? Really? I thought this movie was horrible and
very pretentious, they seemed to be trying way to
hard. The only redeeming factor for it was Ellen
Page; after Hard Candy, she's got my respect.
- added 01/04/2008, 12:32 AM
Awesome. This is opening in my local theater
tomorrow. This, Atonement and There Will Be Blood
are the 3 last movies I need to see from 2007
(well, not the last ones, but the last three I
REALLY want to see).
- added 01/06/2008, 02:50 PM
I thought this movie was adorable and I couldn't
get enough of Michael Cera and Ellen Page. That
said, everything out of her mouth pretty much
annoyed me, and I couldn't get over how her
character was written. Diablo Cody is about 30,
writing for a character half her age. Not every
thing a 16 year old girl says is sarcastic and
witty. We get it, you're a bit out of the
ordinary. That is my only gripe with the entire
picture. Everyone's performances were spot on, and
it was a nicely selected cast. Also, this might be
the best soundtrack I've heard in the last few
years. Nothing speaks to me more than Belle and
Sebastian and The Moldy Peaches. Overall it was
one of the best movies of the year, and I'm glad I
finally got a chance to go see it. 10/10
- added 01/07/2008, 02:46 PM
In response to lostth0ught -- there is a thin
line between pretentious and original and then
film stayed on the side of the latter. It was
quirky without the actors trying to be quirky --
they were just being themselves. The script is
the heart and soul of the film and it's the best
of the year.
- added 02/02/2008, 03:48 PM
I don't really get how it can be pretentious? It
wasn't trying to do anything wild or out of the
ordinary. It just told a story about a pregnant
teenager, very well I might add. Every character
is likable, and it's just a very charming movie. I
wouldn't call it the best of the year, but it is
very good. It's funny one minute and just gets a
little more serious as time goes on, until the end
you are just happy for everyone. 8/10
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg
- added 02/21/2008, 06:58 PM
It's nice, but I don't think it's praiseworthy.
The drama of it is pretty engaging but the comedy
factor seemed absent to me. I think it needed more
Cera... or just better lines in general. All in
all, I'd opt to just buy the soundtrack rather
than the DVD.
- added 02/25/2008, 03:34 PM
This movie was amazing. I've seen it four times
and every time I love it. Ellen is amazing.
Michael Cera is adorable. Olivia Thirlby is also
very good and should have been recognized more for
her role. It also has an amazing soundtrack. 10/10
- added 05/23/2008, 11:29 PM
I just watched this for the 1st time and I have
to say I loved it. Ellen Page is awesome, the
screenplay is so spot on, and the whole cast
really shines in this one. Great review Billy Ray,
I agree with every word.
- added 01/22/2009, 12:20 PM
I absolutely despised this movie. and all that
hype about it? ugh... Ellen Page is annoying and
Michael Cera is complete dork. 5/10
- added 04/27/2009, 12:20 AM
This is one of those movies you either love or
hate, and I thought it rocked. I have to agree
with bluemeanie's review on this one. Great
characters, soundtrack and script.
The Red Clover
- added 05/04/2009, 01:35 AM
I think done differently and possibly with
different actors, this script under normal
circumstances probably would not have held up. Now
with that said these were pretty extraordinary
circumstances as in the casting was spot-on and
every actor in the movie could, gasp, act.
Surprising, I know. I agree with the score, a
- added 02/14/2010, 11:23 PM
Absolutely meh on it's own merits, and the
constant barrage of mind numbingly awful indie
music pushed it into the realm of horrible.
- added 02/15/2010, 07:47 PM
Yeah, no. Too cute to be funny, to quirky to be
smart. This was not a good movie. ellen Page was
finein her role... if her role was meant to be
that of the teenage girl that every teenage girl
thinks she is and since she was the o nly thing
carrying this totally mundane plot then there's
nothing else I can really give this one credit
for. Also, with Cris, soundtrack was unbearbly
If I ever meet Michael
Cera in the streets I'm going to break his
annoying fucking face. If I see him in one more
movie playing the exact same fucking character I'm
going to lose it.
- added 02/15/2010, 08:29 PM
Meh, I liked it. I won't say it's perfect, but I
enjoyed it. As for indie music there are some
bands I like, but the genre as a whole I can't get