In screenwriter Diablo Cody’s Juno, when the father of the eponymous teenage heroine (Ellen Page) learns of his daughter’s unexpected pregnancy, he says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.” Juno thoughtfully looks at him and convincingly replies, “I don’t know what kind of girl I am.” The frankness in Cody’s terrific screenplay is why Juno stands out not only as a witty, heartwarming comedy but also as one of the top films of 2007.
Through such honest writing, Cody (a former City Pages blogger) creates a compelling character, in Juno, who everyone can connect to. The film isn’t only about a teenager dealing with a “grown-up” problem, but more generally about the angst, loneliness, foolish optimism, and tough relationships everyone muddles through in their teenage years.
Juno MacGuff, a teenager in a Minneapolis suburb, discovers she’s pregnant by her fellow classmate Paulie Bleeker (Superbad’s Michael Cera). Any visual image conjured up by his name is pretty much dead-on—the name “Bleeker” couldn’t be more fitting for the awkward, friendly track-jock who is growing into his manhood.
What follows is an entertaining coming-of-age story as Juno tries to not only figure out who she is (does she love Bleeker? what is love, anyway?) but also how to do the right thing for the unplanned child. She decides the right thing is to give the baby to a couple who wants a child, and we meet the yuppie couple who hope to adopt the baby. Played by Jennifer Garner (Alias) and Jason Bateman (from Arrested Development, where he coincidentally played Cera’s father) the couple introduce Juno to a new layer of adult relationships and issues she wasn’t aware of before.
The star of the film is Ellen Page. A 23-year old in real life, Page has already earned a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination for this role, and deservedly so. She embodies a character everyone would root for—any audience member who frowns down upon teenage pregnancy would surely set aside biases to root for the charming Juno Ms. Page creates.
As a Minnesotan, Cody gives her own homage to the area. Locals will enjoy picking up all the location references, from Southdale Mall to dialogue like, “You drove all the way to St. Cloud?”
The year’s end brings forth many heavyweight films vying for Oscars—films from period pieces to war commentaries—but Juno will find a place amongst the top contenders. I was even more emotionally moved by the comedy Juno than by many other films I’ve seen this holiday season.
Stephen Sporer (firstname.lastname@example.org) works at Macalester College in St. Paul and has reviewed films for KTFM, San Antonio’s most popular radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York, where he studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College as well as acting and singing at a wide range of venues.