2007 / Best Actress / Best Director / Best Picture

Film #427: Juno (2007)

The third and final film in the indie comedy trio also contained a fine ensemble but oddly wasn’t even nominated for that year’s Screen Actors Guild Award. This is a shame as I think that the interactions between the quirky cast in Jason Reitman’s Juno provided some of its finest moments.

Written by former exotic dancer Diablo Cody, Juno focuses on the titular sixteen-year-old who discovers she’s pregnant after a one night liaison with her best friend Paulie Bleeker. After backing out of having an abortion, Juno decides to give the baby away to a couple who really want a baby. This is certainly true of Vanessa who, along with husband Mark, are the couple Juno chooses as the adoptive parents. Cody’s script then follows Juno’s adventures over a year as she struggles with her pregnancy and her various relationships. One thing I like about Juno is the script is very focused with the two narrative strands focusing on our protagonist’s feelings for Bleeker and her interactions with reluctant adoptive father Mark. At times you feel you know where the film is going, especially when Cody suggests that Mark and Juno are going to begin some sort of illicit affair, however she surprises you several times over. Of the three films in this post, Juno is the one that made me laugh out loud the most and it’s a testament to both Cody and the comic timing of the ensemble cast. Cody’s script was criticised at the time for not providing the teenage characters with realistic dialogue however I disagree with this assertion. Instead the offbeat nature of the dialogue adds another layer to the film’s already unique style and makes the character of Juno stand out from other female leads.

The aforementioned unique style is evident from the offset as we follow an animated opening sequence that sees Juno head off to take her third pregnancy test, accompanied by an extra-large bottle of Sunny Delight. Reitman makes sure that each character has a specific look from Bleeker’s extremely bright athletic kit to Mark and Vanessa’s yuppie outfits and Juno’s stepmother Bren’s collection of homely knitwear. The music is similarly memorable with Mouldy Peaches front-woman Kimya Dawson’s voice being present during several of the film’s key moments. One of the film’s cutest moments involves Juno and Bleeker performing a Mouldy Peaches number on the the latter’s front porch. However, I feel that Juno wouldn’t have been as well-received if it were not for the Oscar-nominated turn from lead actress Ellen Page. Despite having already been in an X-Men film at this point, Page was still a relatively unknown quantity and I felt she proved herself here by appearing in almost every scene. She made Cody’s dialogue feel believable and balanced both Juno’s sarcasm with her more vulnerable nature. Ellen Page also shared brilliant chemistry with Michael Cera as the nervous Bleeker; with the two making one of the cutest couples in recent cinema history. As Vanessa, Jennifer Garner was a revelation as, up to this point she had mainly featured in action films however Juno really let her demonstrate what she could do when playing a straight-laced character. Recent Oscar winner JK Simmons and Allison Janney were also on form as Juno’s parents with the latter having a rather tender moment with Garner at the end of the film. Another film that is a firm favourite of mind; Juno blends a fantastic Oscar-winning screenplay with a fine central turn and a style which perfectly sums up the indie comedy genre to which all of these three films belong.


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