Film review: Juno

2008-03-17 00:00

Diablo Cody is the scribe of Juno, the Golden Globe winner for best comedy film this year. Cody was once a stripper and wrote a blog and a book about her experiences, but Juno is something different — it is accomplished and poignant, dealing with the issues around teenage pregnancy. And it is Ellen Page in the lead role who carries much of the film’s authenticity, being able to embody a fair measure of teenage angst juxtaposed with the growing realisation of the responsibilities of adulthood.

Juno MacGuff (Page) is the edgy, unconventional 16-year-old who discovers she is pregnant after her first sexual encounter. The father is nerdy athlete Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Given the polar-opposite attributes of the two characters, it is obvious to both the audience and Juno’s parents (Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons) whose idea it was to have sex — Juno has plenty of charisma and a sharp tongue, while Paulie is the gentle and quiet geeky friend. Juno opts out of the abortion procedure after going to a dingy clinic and comes up with a solution to her predicament before she spells out the news to her parents (a great scene in itself).

The plan is to give the baby up for adoption to yuppie couple Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman), who have not been able to have a baby of their own. But that is not the only issue in their marriage — Mark is a composer and musician, who we later discover is not ready to be a father, while Vanessa is successful in her career, but feels it’s her destiny to be a mother.

The film follows Juno’s pregnancy through the different trimesters as the seasons unfold, and there are some memorable scenes backed by an alternative folk-style guitar-driven soundtrack. But the film often relies on the ability of the actors to emphasise points and generate laughs rather than a quirky cue from the soundtrack, and this, for me, is where Juno is so good, because the actors deliver.

It would be farcical to say that the realities of teenage pregnancy are fully dealt with in Juno — it is what it is: a heart-warming story. ****

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