Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Juno" Review


The latest of the comedy/drama releases, Juno (directed by Jason Reitman) is the story of a 16-year-old girl (played by Ellen Page) who is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy – the father being her long-time friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).

After initially deciding to have an abortion and avoid letting anyone else but her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), the local store clerk Rollo (brilliantly played by Rainn Wilson), and the aforementioned Bleeker know of her predicament, she has a change of heart and immediately sets about proceeding with her pregnancy – and then giving the baby up for adoption to a family of her choosing.

After finding the “perfect couple” of Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) in a local free-ads paper, she goes to meet them and strikes up a friendship with Mark before some things begin to get more complicated than they initially appeared to be.


First off, I’d like to give a BIG thank you to the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show and Today FM for inviting me along to see this special advance screening at Dublin’s Savoy Theatre. It’s greatly appreciated and I’d strongly encourage everyone to listen to Ian’s breakfast show if you ever have the pleasure of visiting Ireland. Good music and always great entertainment!

Anyway, back to the review….

Going in to see Juno, I’d be lying if I said my expectations were not high. After all the positive buzz beforehand and the incredibly high-rating on Rotten Tomatoes (currently standing at 93%), I was looking forward to the movie and was anticipating something wonderful. I’m happy to say that I got that…. sort of!

Regarding the picture itself, I don’t think that there is an awful lot that I can say. There are no glaring faults, yet nothing spectacular to get really excited about. It’s a relatively simple story told in a simple way. That said, the picture is by no means boring. I found myself thoroughly entertained throughout.; it’s nicely shot and well-paced. We get some good drama and conflicts in which our characters can sink their teeth into and give them that extra dimension of reality that we can all identify with. It does have some very funny moments also to which they got a great reaction from the audience. There are also some very nice and tender moments which Juno shares with her father and Bleeker.

One problem I did find with the film was how little Bleeker featured. I found it very odd that the person responsible for getting a young girl pregnant would show very little interest in either her or the child she was carrying. While they had agreed not to keep the child, surely Bleeker should have been more attentive and supportive towards Juno in her obvious time of need, instead of downing orange Tic-Tac’s and jogging endlessly.

Ellen Page is wonderful as the title character Juno. She nails her role as the sharp-tongued, smart-mouth teenager. As the movie progresses, she begins to show a real growth in maturity. However, if I had any one complaint about the character of Juno, it’s that she never really appeard to be scared of being pregnant. Sure, she was scared about telling her parents – but I felt they could have made her character to be that little bit nervous and apprahensive at being another “teenage pregnancy”. I find it hard to believe that anyone could remain so calm and flippant regarding an unplanned pregnancy.

There are strong performances down through the cast list too. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are well cast in their roles as the prospective parents. They serve as a great device in allowing us to get to know Juno better – be it her tastes in music and movies, and how she deals with certain problems which may arise.

J.K. Simmons is brilliant as Juno’s father, Mac. He has some really great one-liners and he once again demonstrates how good his comic timing is, as we have seen before in the Spider-Man series and The Ladykillers. Not only does he provide us with great comedy moments, but he is very convincing in the role of a loving father who respects his daughter enough to allow her to make her own decisions and stand by her in support, rather than trying to make her choices instead.

Allison Janney also gives a very good account of herself as Juno’s step-mother Bren, and Olivia Thirlby does well in her relatively small role as Juno’s friend Leah.

For me the only weak link in the cast was Michael Cera as Bleeker. Acting-wise, there was nothing “wrong” per se with his performance. The problem is that every time I looked at him or every time he delivered a line I just thought to myself “that’s Evan from Superbad”. His voice, mannerisms, movements; everything was just the same as his character in Superbad. It will be interesting to see him in future roles to see if he has any greater range to display, or will he be typecast as the tall, skinny, quiet guy from here on in.


So did Juno live up to the hype and positive reviews? Yes and no. Some interesting characters and equally good performances are certainly the film’s strongpoint. The flow of comedy and drama work well together and as a result we get a nicely balanced film. With the exception of the character of Bleeker and his involvement, it’s hard to find much fault. Everyone else gives strong performances, and there a few seeds sewn throughout to cast some doubt in the viewers’ minds as to how the picture will turn out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the immense hype and expectation for me, but it’s still a very good little film that is worthy of 96 minutes of your time.


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