Directed by Jason Reitman
99 times out of 100, quirky gimmicks and off-the-wall humor falls flat on its face, leaving filmmakers wondering whether they should’ve just stuck to the traditional Hollywood form. 1 time out of 100, you get “Juno.”
Ellen Page hits her career-high early playing Juno MacGuff, a totally rad high school junior who unsuspectingly gets pregnant after hooking up with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Her parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) are obviously concerned, and her best friend (Olivia Thirlby) is her only real ally in the kamikaze attack on Juno’s social life that follows. When she finds what seems like a loving couple, Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), hoping to adopt, Juno thinks her pregnancy plan is finally set. But soon she begins to question what she once thought about love.
An Oscar-nominated, masterpiece first script from Diablo Cody defined a generation of hipsters wishing that they could be half as cool as Juno. It deserves a top-tier spot in the comedy canon. I’ve expressed my love of Cody’s writing before (from “Jennifer’s Body” to “Young Adult” to her memoir, “Candy Girl”), but this is where it all started. She gives us enough quotable lines in “Juno” to last us a decade, and a slew of unique, lovable, and truly unforgettable characters. Her obscure cultural references (to old bands, new movies, and a bunch of other iconography) feed right into my sense of humor, but quotable lines don’t just say themselves.
To me and so many others, Ellen Page will forever be Juno. She’s a kook; it’s as if the role was written for her, she’s that perfect. Well, the Academy loved her enough to give her an Oscar nomination (besides hers and Cody’s, “Juno” got two more Oscar noms – for director Jason Reitman and for Best Picture). I often get annoyed by teen actors in movies, but Juno is mature beyond her years – and, though Page was 19 when “Juno” was filming, she makes me not hate teen actors so much. She’s as honest and real as Juno as any teen actor I’ve seen. Bateman and Garner portray the morally complicated marital relationship that sets this film apart from so many others. Cody plays with stereotypes, but then she flips them on their backs and shows the world how real characters are made.
A Grammy-nominated soundtrack puts “Juno” in a class of its own when it comes to quirks. Talk about hipster. But these catchy tunes only serve to leave an even more indelible mark on you. You won’t forget it because you can’t.
Normalcy really isn’t its style. That’s what makes “Juno” one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s not just another teen movie. Far, far from it.