Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Allison Janney
Director: Jason Reitman
Time: 92 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? Movies about teenage pregnancy often have that dark, moralistic tone that depress people. Film-makers know that and they do their utmost to present the subject in a more light-hearted way. Last year (2007) saw three films on pregnancy - "Knocked Up", "Waitress" and "Juno" (not counting "A Mighty Heart" and "Rendition" which deal with pregnant mums) - and "Juno" is undoubtedly the best of the three. A mix of teen-flick and rom-com, it should appeal to both the young and older viewers. Currently, "Juno" is the rage with college kids in the US and it should win an Oscar for lead actress Ellen Page (above, left).
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? After taking three DIY home pregnancy tests, Juno MacGuff (Page) is convinced that she is preggers. Her boyfriend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), is just as befuddled by the news as she is, as they only did it once. At first, Juno considers an abortion, but she dumps the idea after a visit to the clinic. Her other option is, of course, giving the baby up for adoption. After breaking the news to her supportive father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney), Juno goes in search of a good parental couple for her unborn child. She picks Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark Loring (Jason Bateman), who seems like the perfect yuppie couple. However, Juno gets a few surprises along the way from high school fraternity to maternity...
HITS & MISSES: The best thing about this movie is 20-year-old Canadian Ellen Page, the girl-next-door type with whom we will fall for at once. As Juno, she is street-smart, witty, mature beyond her years and disarmingly childlike. However, the naïveté often peeks through her wise-ass facade showing that Juno is not quite as smart or as capable as she thinks she is. Kudos to Page for a brilliant Oscar-worthy performance (we hope she wins the Best Actress award).
The next best thing is the perky script by Diablo Cody, who gives this coming-of-age tale a smug, 'totally cool' touch that is sometimes too smart for its own good. Director Ivan Reitman starts out with hand-drawn caricatures of the main characters, and then fleshing them out gradually. The grown-ups, for example, seem like familiar caricatures of teen-flicks: square, sad and clueless. But Juno’s father and step-mother turn out to be caring, intelligent people, too. Reitman allows the personalities of the characters to emerge slowly, and to change in credible and unpredictable ways. You will like all of them.
And then there's also a sweet little love story to warm the young hearts.
THE LOWDOWN: This is one movie that grabs us from the opening credits to the end. The setting may be rather American, but the theme is universal enough for all.