Jason Reitman crafts a delightful little film working from a script by Diablo Cody and starring Ellen Page in this recommendation from Great Movies – 100 Years of Film and my screening of Rules of the Game.
Ellen Page is the titular Juno, a junior high school student, who after a night with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) ends up pregnant. From there, it’s an often poignant, very funny tale about family and love.
J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney play Juno’s concerned but incredibly supportive parents, while Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play a childless couple who very much want to adopt Juno’s child.
But these things are never simple, and the story follows all the characters on their emotional journey, there are no bad guys in this film, there are bad and poor decisions, but at no time do you feel that the characters are not being faithful to who they are.
And all of them get to have amazing dialogue, Cody has a way with words that gives everyone a point of reference when listening to it, but it’s almost like her creations have a tongue all their own. Most of us wish we could talk that cool.
When you see how long Bateman’s character, Mark gets along with Juno, perhaps better than his own wife, then you know that perhaps something isn’t so strong in the relationship Mark has with Garner’s Vanessa.
With a soundtrack padded with indie folk rock, this film feels very much like a tiny, almost no-budget independent film, and that adds to its charm. That is what made it different at the box office, separating itself from the ‘bigger,’ more commercial titles that were out there.
Ellen is wonderfully engaging as Juno, running the gambit of pregnancy-induced emotions, while Cera’s Bleeker looks befuddled by the things coming out of her mouth, simply wanting to be with her, but seemingly being pushed away, or getting decidedly mixed signals.
There’s a quirky joy that permeates this movie, even when the characters are facing tough decisions, and even heartbreak. The script, the direction and the performances have been married into a brilliant example of the 21st century dramedy, laced with pop culture references (“Thundercats are go”), music, and real emotions. Reitman has made a delightfully fun film, that wears its heart on its sleeve, happily sharing the fact that yes, sometimes things don’t go the way we want, but sometimes, things work out in ways you never expected.
This has been the first time I’ve watched it since seeing it in the theater when it was first released, and I have to say, it has stood up very well. And is still a real joy to watch.