Juno

| December 7, 2007 | 0 Comments

It became painfully clear, perhaps even before the opening credits, that Juno, from director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, 2005), was declaring its attempt to infect the nation’s youth with one-liners and random acts of awkwardness. It also clearly had a hope to become the impossible: an instant cult classic. I was bombarded with postcards at my pre-screening, proclaiming benefit in joining the Junoverse, and boosters giving away the chance at winning what would undoubtedly be crappy prizes plastered with the film’s title, for seeing the movie as many times as possible and logging your viewings on their website. Unfortunately, a lack of original voice causes the film to bumble through a cliché-ridden storyline littered with words and phrases that are less than infectious.
The story itself, as a premise, is mildly touching, as Juno (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old high school student, discovers her pregnancy at more than the hands of her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Juno quickly confesses to her father, Mac (J.K. Simmons), and stepmother, Bren (Allison Janney), in a conversation that comes far too easily to everyone involved. Juno, ready for an abortion, quickly makes an appointment.
Juno’s simple solution proves more than she can handle. She decides that she will keep her baby, but she chooses a couple to adopt her child at birth, all without input from the baby’s father or her parents. Her search for a couple ends with Vanessa and Mark Loring, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, who are too obviously anxious for a baby. Through the support of her parents and a fluctuating relationship with Paulie, Juno simply floats as life and consequences readjust and reconnect beneath her.
Despite Diablo Cody’s valiant effort in her debut as a storyteller, she loses touch with the heart of her film as she tries to pack it full of memorable moments and quotes that her studio will one day plaster on t-shirts, calendars and lunch boxes. She allows Juno a voiceover at three or four random times. They add nothing to the story but act more as a Cliff’s Notes for the slower audience members. Michael Cera struggles to lose the soft-spoken, lost-for-words character of George-Michael he played on Arrested Development. He’s funny but too pathetic, and when combined with your pity, is distracting enough for him not to matter.
On the other hand, Ellen Page and J.K. Simmons are a formidable team that carry the film. After starring in Hard Candy and doing well on such a claustrophobic set, Ellen Page’s personality glows as she finds the perfect blend of sarcasm and love to make you take interest in anything the film may attempt to announce. Despite being surrounded by less-than-average personalities, the writing for her character quickly rose to the top. Simmons delivers a great supporting performance as a provider and a source of encouragement to his daughter’s choices.
Juno provides a few laughs and should do well to give high school students comebacks and jokes. The themes promote a healthy family atmosphere and the power of communication, but struggle to reach a deeper level with uninspired modes of storytelling and characters that are visually present but fail to connect.

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