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Juno Provides Quirky Commentary on Growing Up Fast

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Apr 18, 2008
<i>Juno</i> Provides Quirky Commentary on Growing Up Fast

DVD Release Date:  April 15, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  December 5, 2007 (limited)
Rating:  PG-13 (mature thematic material, sexual content and language)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama
Run Time:  95 min.
Director:  Jason Reitman
Actors:  Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Rainn Wilson

Although these films couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in terms of sheer crudeness, there’s been a decidedly pro-life theme running through several flicks this year:  Knocked UpWaitress and now, this month’s Juno.

In each of these movies, pregnancy resulted in less-than-ideal circumstances. In Knocked Up, it was a drunken one-night stand between two characters (think beauty and the shlubby slacker) that probably wouldn’t have even spoken to each other—let alone gotten intimate—if they’d been sober. In Waitress, the pretty protagonist gets pregnant by her cruel (and abusive) husband. And in Juno, the quick-witted 16-year-old with that unusual moniker finds herself with child after a one-time experimentation with sex with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).

While any of these women could’ve “procured a hasty abortion” as Juno (Ellen Page) referred to it in the film, each opted to actually have the baby and remarkably, learned something valuable about herself—and the choices she made—in the process.

Of course, that observation isn’t meant to condone the premarital sex in either Knocked Up or Juno. But rather, it’s a surprising turn of the tide values-wise, considering how abortions are usually presented as the most obvious solution to the “inconvenient” problem of pregnancy in your average sitcom.

After briefly flirting with having an abortion herself, Juno can’t bear the thought of terminating her pregnancy. And with the urging of a close friend and the support of her family, Juno also decides that rather than keeping the baby for herself (she’s in high school, after all) she’ll make another family happy instead by putting the baby up for adoption.

But rather than going about the adoption process the usual way, Juno’s friend suggests looking for a family in the “desperately seeking spawn” section of local Penny Saver. Of course, this is all played for laughs, but this is precisely how Juno finds the seemingly perfect family to raise her baby in waiting.

After years and years of being unable to conceive, a suburban couple complete with a McMansion and a Lexus in the driveway, Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner) are looking for a newborn to complete their family. Although a successful career woman already, Vanessa is convinced she was “born to be a mother” and hopes that Juno is the answer to their prayers because she’s ready for a hasty change in priorities.

Since Juno is sarcastic and about as anti-establishment as it gets, preferring vintage punk rock to Top 40 and old-school slasher flicks to what’s popular at the local Cineplex, her interactions with the Lorings make for some of the movie’s funniest moments. Watching a buttoned-up Vanessa respond to Juno’s wisecracks about the baby needing to “get a little cuter”, even referring to it as a “sea monkey” at one point, is downright hilarious because the dialogue, penned by first-timer Diablo Cody, is so cleverly written.

Capturing the angst and worries of the everyday teenager so vividly, Cody manages to coin a few new catchphrases that’ll surely appeal to those who appreciated quirky fare like Napoleon Dynamite or Little Miss Sunshine. And unlike a lot of movie scripts that get overly sentimental or overtly preachy, Cody has a light touch in the lessons learned department. The takeaway value in Juno manages to be apparent without being obvious, which isn’t always easy to pull off.

As Juno learns about love, loss and failed expectations, it’s clear she’s growing as a person in the process, despite her bad choices. And thanks to the aforementioned script, shining performances from the actors (especially the relative newcomer, Page), what could’ve been another depressing Indie flick actually ends up leaving you with a smile on your face.

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Vanessa enjoys a glass of wine with dinner.
  • Language/Profanity:  Several profanities throughout including one use of the “f” word and instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Juno gets pregnant after a one-time experimentation with sex, although nothing explicit is shown except kissing. There are a few crude sexual remarks and innuendos scattered throughout. A childbirth scene is shown, but nothing too graphic.
  • Violence:  Only of the comedic variety.