Friday, December 14, 2007

Juno: Fo Shizzle

Everything that you have read (and will soon hear word-of-mouth) about Juno is true. It is a perfect little gem of a movie with not a single false note (as the New Yorker observed).

What makes this movie this year's Little Miss Sunshine, that is, a movie that is really quite impossible not to like, is the combination of a smart script, a simple plot, great understated acting, and quirky original music as sort of frosting on the cupcake. You really do just want to pinch the cheeks of this movie.

The plot is achingly simple and potent: smart teenage girl gets pregnant and decides against an abortion in favor of giving the baby up for adoption to a well-meaning couple.

So many things work, and no doubt most of the attention will go to Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff, the protagonist, who is equal parts sass and vulnerability (and by the way, the success of this film once again proves my theory that all great literature has a highly sympathetic protagonist). She deserves the attention. This young actress took the writer Diablo Cody's (former stripper, btw) character and infused it with spontaneity and intelligence. Credit too goes to the director Jason Reitman who repeats here the magic of Thank You for Smoking: creating three dimensional characters where you'd expect stock: the high school jock, the popular girl, the nerd, the stepmom, the uptight yuppie couple, the working class dad.

The supporting actors are perfect. Michael Cera as the boyfriend--boy, does that kid have a shining career ahead of him. He was equally good in Superbad. My advice to him though would be to get cast against type next time around. Allison Janey: good to see ya! Is there nothing you can't do? Press secretary of the West Wing one day, manicurist, dog-loving, working class step mom the next?

But the real surprise of this movie is Jennifer Garner. You will not expect to be moved by her, but I was frankly blown away at her sensitive performance. Maybe it's because I've known so many women who just desperately want to get pregnant; it's such a complicated vulnerable position. I swear I could see dozens of emotions flash across her brow and mouth in every scene. One moment really stands out: she runs into Juno in the mall. It's already been established that Juno will giver her baby up to the Jennifer Garner character (Vanessa) and her husband (Mark--played intelligently by Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame). Juno is explaining how the baby has been kicking a lot. She offers to let Vanessa feel it. At first Vanessa is embarrassed--she's out shopping with her girlfriends. But you can tell she really wants to feel Juno's massive belly. When she gets on her knees and puts her hand on Juno's stomach nothing happens. Juno suggests talking to the baby. She starts out self consciously with "hello, baby. . . " and pretty soon she's really communicating with this unborn child. And then across her face, like the sun came out from behind a cloud, we see, I mean we really see, her reaction to the kick! The moment is simple and true. And for once Juno, who seems to have an uncanny way of seeing the truth in all situations--albeit a 16 year old truth (partly unfettered, partly downright uninformed by her own admission)-- says nothing.

See this movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmm, would you call Ignatious P.Reilly a sympathetic protagonist?

I want to see this movie, especially since my 19-year old niece recently announced her own identical situation. I'm devastated.