Jason Reitman’s second feature (his first being the fantastically satirical “Thank You for Smoking”) is the story of Juno, an odd teenage girl who inadvertently becomes pregnant due to a one-night-stand with her best friend, Paulie Bleaker (“Superbad’s” Michael Cera) because she was bored, or so she claims.
Starting the movie off is a very clever opening credit sequence of Juno walking through town carrying a jug of Sunny-D. It ends with her walking into a drug store to purchase her third pregnancy test. Unfortunately, the third time is not the charm for Juno, as she is very much pregnant. Pointing this out very clearly to Juno is the store clerk (played hilariously by “The Office’s” Rainn Wilson), who almost steals the show in the film’s first five minutes.
After deciding not to have an abortion due to an unnerving abortion clinic waiting room, Juno decides to tell her parents about her “bun in the oven” and inform them that she plans to give the baby up for adoption. The revelation to the parents is a scene of pure hilarity with J.K. Simmons (“Spiderman”) and Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) playing Juno’s atypically supportive – yet shocked – parents.
The decision is then made to have the baby and give it to Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), who were discovered by Juno in an ad in the penny-saver newspaper. Juno talks warmly to the couple, especially Mark, who she finds to be a somewhat kindred spirit in her taste of punk rock music. What begins as a touching friendship starts to slowly turn into potential trouble with each subsequent visit that Juno makes to her baby’s soon-to-be parent’s house.
What makes this movie work so well are the actors. Every performer gets their moment to shine. After chewing scenery in the “Spiderman” trilogy as J. Jonah Jamison, everyone can enjoy another hilarious supporting performance from Simmons as Juno’s father. Cera is back in form playing his usual awkward and nervous high school kid, yet he does it so well you don’t mind that you haven’t seen Cera branch out much. Bateman (“Arrested Development”) continues to do what he does best as he can make us laugh hilariously but then make us sympathize with him in an instant. Garner (“Alias”) shows us there is more to her than just martial arts, as she gives one of the best performances in the film as woman desperately wanting a child.
But the real star of the show is Juno. Playing Juno is Ellen Page (“X3” and “Hard Candy”), who is a character that always has a one-liner or obscure pop culture reference ready to go. Page plays her character with such fantastic timing and smarts that it is impossible not to fall completely in love with this socially odd girl who does not quite know her place in the world. Page is this movie and she gives one of the best performances of the year.
“Juno” is a movie that works on a multitude of levels. The script, penned by ex-stripper Diablo Cody, is as sharp and witty as they come. It seems as though every line is made to make you laugh and it works to perfection, thanks to the script, its talented cast and its even more talented director. Jason Reitman has proved that he is a filmmaker to be reckoned with as his sophomore outing is leaps and bounds ahead of his first. The smart-mouthed dialogue that worked so well in “Thank You for Smoking” is present here on spades, but most of all, there is a sense of tenderness and finesse that Reitman brings behind the lens.
This is a film that is both the funniest and most touching of the year. If there was any category you could put this in, it would probably be in the “high school” genre. Along with the tumultuous troubles of pregnancy, our heroine must also endure the trials of high school. Yet this is a high school film not aimed at the “American Pie” audience, but every audience. It is a film that can appeal to every film goer.