Movie Review ~ Jenny Kowalski
Maybe it's just me, but I have low expectations for most comedies I see. Juno was no exception. After seeing the previews, I found myself saying, "Not another Knocked Up." But I was pleasantly surprised. The movie’s mix of quirk, quality casting, and sincere sense of reality took the delicate subject of teenage pregnancy and made Juno an endearing and humorous success.
The story is based around Juno (Ellen Page), a teenager who gets pregnant when she sleeps with her best friend, Paulie Bleaker (Michael Cera), mostly out of boredom and curiosity, and decides to have the baby to give up for adoption. The movie follows Juno as she tries to negotiate high school while dealing with her feelings for Bleaker and bonding with the adoptive family.
To begin with, it was refreshing, surprising even, to see all the actors actually look like they could be in high school. I've never understood the trend of Hollywood casting actors so old that they make Dickinson students look like middle schoolers rather than actually portraying people in the most awkward physical phases of growing up.
Going a little deeper than the physical makeup of the actors, one of the major reasons I found this movie so successful was the actual acting. Page steals the show with her nonchalant delivery of lines dripping with sarcasm and the unpredictability of her dialogue while in the face of teenage pregnancy. Juno also features a strong supporting cast and several of the most memorable scenes are her interactions with some of the more minor characters, such as Juno's family and her classmate protesting outside of the abortion clinic. But behind many of the characters' quirky and sometimes ironic facade, there is a strong sense of reality - people like this do exist in high schools across America.
Juno also avoids cliches such as the unsupportive angry family. This allows the film to explore in more depth the relationship Juno has with her father and step-mother. Both J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney subtly portray the difficulty of having a teenager who is pregnant without losing sight of the comedic aspect.
I did have some minor issues with the movie. I found the relationship between Juno and the adoptive father, Mark, to be ambiguous, even out of place. While Juno and Mark's verbal jousting of "my band/my taste in movies is more obscure than yours" added to the film's indie appeal, it bordered on pretentious and detracted from the movie's sincerity. The scene where the two danced together also flirted with shifting away from the movie's central conflict.
I also found Cera's performance underwhelming. His character, Bleaker, was far too similar to his role in Superbad. As his career continues we will see if he is merely a one note actor.
Aside from these few criticisms, Juno deserves all the critical acclaim it has received. The film's ability to gracefully balance humor and poignancy turns an often taboo subject into one of 2007's best comedies.