The arrival of Juno at UK cinemas earlier this year was like a proverbial breath of fresh air. A film about teen pregnancy that managed to sidestep the ‘Movie of the Week’ cliches, it’s one of the best indie films out of the States in recent times.
The key two reasons for the film’s success are in line with the hype at the time. Firstly, Diablo Cody’s script is snappy, lively, often very funny while generally believable (but not totally – you can’t help but think that the character of Juno is a little bit too ‘complete’ to be real). It’s some piece of work, and you can easily understand why she’s got an Oscar on her sideboard as a result.
The second reason is Ellen Page. Page burst onto the screen in Hard Candy, a difficult film that she powers with a performance that could single-handedly define the word ‘breakthrough’. With Juno, not only do we get to see that she has range to her talent, but she also gives a performance that she’ll do well to top anytime soon. Even on repeated viewing, it’s a terrific piece of work for someone so young, although on balance, I’d suggest that her turn in Hard Candy just about eclipses it.
Still, a repeated viewing does dilute the impact of the film a little. Perhaps part of the Juno effect was that it was something fresh and felt very different, and while the core is still a four-star movie, my feelings towards had tempered a little by the time the credits rolled for the second time. For instance, I’d have loved to have seen more of J K Simmons as Juno’s dad, and the script sometimes felt a little too clever (if that’s a viable complaint). But Juno is nonetheless one of the best films of the year to date, and easily earns a recommendation.
As for the Blu-ray, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The picture quality is sharp, although you do feel that the low-budget roots of the movie are evident in the picture. It’s a transfer that more than does the job. The audio is more subtle, and the soundstage for the most part quite restricted to dialogue from the front speakers. Die Hard it ain’t, and unsurprisingly, there’s no meaty audio workout here. All to be expected.
So it’s onto the extras, which, sadly, mainly feel like a press pack on a disc. The Fox Channel red carpet premiere segment for instance is just that: a few minutes of interviewing people on the way into the film’s premiere. While it’s interesting to see John Malkovich interviewed as part of this – he’s one of the film’s producers – there’s nothing here of note. We then get featurettes that pat both Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman on the back, which is all well and good, but again, there’s no depth or substance to the talking heads. A further featurette about the character of Juno, as well as one looking at making the film, fall into similar traps, sadly.
Then there’s the a gag reel and gag take. The latter is Rainn Wilson ranting about lifting a bag, and is decent enough. The former is a tattily presented collection of corporate-approved outtakes. They run to around seven minutes in total.
Next? You get to see the cast and crew of Juno jamming. It’s fun, it’s slight, but it ain’t what you buy the disc for.
Fortunately, the extras package is saved by a commentary track with Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, and this is the one supplement that’s worth bothering with. The pair yack away, bouncing off each other well, and actually have a lot to say about the film and its making. It’s a very strong track, and well worthy of your time.
In all, Juno remains a smart, funny film, and it’ll be fascinating to see where Ellen Page heads next. There’s no compelling reason to go high definition over the standard DVD release, though.