This film isn’t aimed to cause a massive debate, yet it has caused a few rumblings. What is refreshing about Juno is how anti-Hollywood the film feels, even though it has actors like Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and our lead Ellen Page, they are given dialogue that is so witty or so realistic that it feels like you are capturing the small moments in this story, nothing feels overdramatised. This is a simple story about a teenage girl who falls pregnant with her best friend’s baby and it documents her story throughout her pregnancy as she plans to give it up for adoption. Unwanted/Unplanned pregnancies are not an original plot, in the 80s there was For Keeps, while Juno was released around the same time as Hollywood film, Knocked Up. However, Juno ruffled a few feathers (mainly in America) over the discussion of pro-life and pro-choice regarding abortion. The main thing that I admire about this film is that it sticks to its guts. Throughout the film there is no real question of what Juno wants to do, she wants to give the baby up for adoption, even planning to meet a couple before telling her dad. However, you always have that slight concern in the back of your head whether she is going to back out of it, because this is a film and the topic of adoption isn’t really addressed in films, particularly in America and if they are usually it is from the adoptive parents POV as opposed to the birth mother.
Ellen Page really shines in this role. Some of her roles before, she never really stood out, but here she owns the characters. I can’t imagine someone else in the role. She plays Juno with the right amount of teenage cynicism and angst but isn’t annoying in the role that you think just another bratty teenager. She is able to allow the audience to break through Juno’s façade without the other characters seeing through it. Juno breaks the teenage stereotype, she doesn’t conform to the high school cliques that films other try to represent. This describes herself as a freak but in reality, she isn’t, she just doesn’t conform to the role that is expected, she is strong, blunt and independent.
Michael Cera plays Paulie Bleeker, the baby daddy. He is the tic tac loving, track running best friend of Juno. He isn’t popular, the girls don’t fawn over him, he isn’t the typical male leading role. Bleeker almost feels as if it was written for Michael Cera. Bleeker is very similar to Cera’s other role as George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development. He is awkward, not confident and very subservient to Juno’s dominating character – they are binary opposite, yet their scenes are some of the best scenes. While this isn’t a romantic film, their scenes are very relatable. They are unable to be honest with each other and go round in circles, not being able to read each other’s body language. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Juno confronts Paulie about taking someone else to prom. This scene sums up the situation for both of them as Paulie stands up to Juno’s treatment of him, he isn’t angry but upset, and you start to see Juno being honest about her feelings – upset that Paulie doesn’t have the constant reminder and he basically gets off scotch free while Juno is viewed as the school freak, she feels that she has lost her best friend and feels very alone.
Juno has a lot of great supporting characters. J.K. Simmons and Alison Janney play Juno’s dad and step-mum and they are able to put a different perspective on the adoption when Simmons characters feels he isn’t ready to be a grandfather and Janney’s reminds him that it will be someone else’s grandfather. Also, Janney is hilarious going all ‘momma bear’ with the Ultrasound technician. While Garner shines as Vanessa, the adoptive mother of Juno’s child. She takes on this character that has a very uptight personality, comes off cold but despite the film being from Juno’s POV, you can see in Garner’s performance Vanessa’s struggles throughout the situation, she isn’t painted as the villain. Also, a shout out to Rainn Wilson who shines in the opening with Ellen when Juno discovers that she is pregnant. “Well, Fertile Myrtle what’s the prognosis?”.
I only have a few complaints about this film. The first one is the portrayal of abortion in the film. Juno initially goes to get an abortion but can’t after she sees a pro-life activist at the clinic. It is impossible to address abortion in a way that will please everyone, but I wish that a bit more was spent on it being an option and the pro-life/pro-choice argument was kept out of it. It all just felt a bit blasé even though I’m aware that the focus is the adoption. My second complaint is the fact that it almost feels that Paulie is off the hook. It takes two to tango and he is barely involved throughout the pregnancy. Michael Cera is criminally underused and it would be nice to see how he is feeling about it. This is Juno’s story, but she isn’t on her own, she just kinda chose to be. My final point is the weird subplot between Juno and Vanessa’s husband Mark (Jason Bateman) it’s clear that they set up a bond, especially with Vanessa coming off as very unapproachable but it takes a weird turn. I don’t know if it’s meant to be romantic or just to make Mark come off as a dick but it felt unnecessarily. With how the film ends, this makes it a very pro-feminist film, that I feel like that male characters do suffer a bit especially when you know that Michael Cera and Jason Bateman can be funny.
This film is smart, witty and snappy. It does a very good job with a topic that they know would be tricky in their domestic market. After the film was released some parents accused Juno of glamorising teenage pregnancy after 17 students got pregnant at a high school. Which is ridiculous because Juno definitely does not glamourise teenage pregnancy, there is nothing glamourous about the film. Juno does not have an easy ride throughout the film. Which is how the film doesn’t conform to Hollywood conventions, which makes the film feel very relatable and gives it a lot of charm. It gives you a lot to think about as often we do not see adoption from the birth mother’s POV. This is one of the best films about unplanned pregnancies, the other being Obvious Child which handles the even more divisive topic of abortion. This a film that reminds the audience that there are choices and the cast deliver superb performances that there are no villains in the film, you can understand all their different views and motivations.
Director: Jason Reitman
Scriptwriter: Diablo Cody
Starring: Ellen Page; Michael Cera; Jennifer Garner; Jason Bateman; Alison Janney; J.K. Simmons
Running Time: 96 minutes (1 hour 36 minutes)