That Juno is nominated for so many Oscars is less of a surprise than it would have been had it not been for the reception Little Miss Sunshine received at last year’s ceremony. Whether this movie will be able to match the awards of that film is yet to be seen. Juno has at least proved a financial success in the US, taking in over $110m since its release in December. And whilst it can be fun to follow the Oscars and it’s nice to see films other than the standard blockbusters make big money, the more pressing matter lies in whether the film is worthy of the hype that has been building around it since it hit the festival circuit.
This quirky comedy tells the story of sixteen year old Juno McGuff who, after a tryst with best friend Paulie Bleaker on an arm chair, finds herself pregnant. A brief trip to the abortion clinic of her choice is enough to convince the teen that another solution to the problem will be necessary. Settling on adoption, Juno responds to an advertisement from a couple who are looking to adopt a child. As they prepare for the new addition to their family, Juno finds that the further into her pregnancy she gets the more complicated life becomes.
Juno‘s brilliance doesn’t really lie in its story. We are offered a wide variety of colourful characters, all unique without ever becoming unbelievable. This is owing, at least in part, to the fantastic cast. In the title role, Ellen Page (last scene torturing paedophiles in Hard Candy or being a mutant in X3) is excellent. She balances Juno’s hipper than hip manner with enough softness and vulnerability to make Juno the most likable teenager on the planet.
The supporting cast are equally excellent. Michael Cera plays Bleaker, running enthusiast and orange Tic-Tac obsessive, with the awkward charm he perfected in Arrested Development and more recently in hit comedy Superbad. He’s joined by fellow Arrested Development alumni Jason Bateman, who along with Jennifer Garner play the prospective adoptive parents to Juno’s offspring. The film is littered with faces you’ll recognise, including The Office‘s Rainn Wilson.
Much has been made of Diablo Cody, the screenwriter behind Juno. Whilst I’ve heard that she used to be a stripper and a blogger (presumably not doing the two things in tandem, although it might make quite the Youtube clip. I’m just saying it would make me more likely to read the blog), I’m not massively up on her story because I don’t really care. With Juno she has crafted a unique, intimate and very funny script and to me, that seems like all that I need to know. Director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan) must also take some credit. Because of the films quirky characters it could easily have descended into She-polean Dynamite, but he manages to place an appropriate emphasis on the humanity of those involved and avoids letting things become one dimensional.
Juno is a film of many qualities. It features a collection of characters that you’ll genuinely care about. It features a story dealing with a serious issue and even when dealing with it in a comedic manner is never flippant on the subject. It avoids having an ending with too much fluff and doesn’t have a moral message about the importance of family values to shove down your throat in the third act. It’s an hour and a half, all that’s necessary to tell this story without the indulgent run time afforded many other releases in recent years. All these things add to the refreshing feel of the film. But above all, Juno is a comedy film that’s really funny.