“Juno” raises the bar for films about teenagers
Scheduled to open today is “Juno” the highly praised and festival- award winning film about a whip smart 16 year old (Ellen Page) who gets pregnant and deals with her predicament in unpredictable ways. Because the screenplay is written by an ex-stripper (media darling Diablo Cody) conventional wisdom might assume something less intelligent, less poignant and perhaps less funny. But “Juno” despite it subject material and author defies logic and ends up being one of the year’s nice surprises.
In the able hands of director Jason Reitman (Last year’s terrific “Thank You for Smoking”), “Juno” treats its subject respectfully and gives us characters that are as authentic as any you will see this year. The kids actually try to act like adults for a change, and the adults don’t act like idiots.
As the sharp talking high school student named after a Roman goddess, Page’s character is a teenage paradox. Her sarcastic, clever, and engaging dialogues camouflage an inner turmoil when she gets knocked up by quietly nerdy boy friend Bleeker (Michael Cera reprising similar character traits from his previous roles as in “Superbad”).
How Juno deals with the situation including telling her parents (wonderful J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) and their non-over reactive response, take the film from merely its “Napoleon Dynamite” quirky territory into something poignant and commendably insightful.
While the film occasionally tries too hard to be witty (no 16 year old on the planet could credibly drop a “Soupy Sales” reference) the film gets a tremendous uplift when potential parents (never better Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) enter the scene. Juno must decide whether the couple’s desire to raise her baby is sincere and in these scenes the film continues to surprise with some deftly written intimate moments and a refreshingly uncynical attitude.
Not without its flaws, the film is nonetheless endearing and considering the topic, a unique treatment that Hollywood seemed incapable of producing. It is difficult to predict if Ellen Page’s remarkable performance here is the result of perfect casting or if her talent is versatile enough to bring more career defining roles. One things’ for sure, few actors were better this past year.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language