Movie Review: Juno

Juno the film which has wowed the critics and is at number five in the nation (despite only being shown in a quarter the number of the top four's screens) joins Bella, Waitress, and even the raunchy Knocked Up, as part of a refreshing new genre of ‘she's going to have the baby anyway' films, reminiscent of the baby comedies of the nineties (without the talking babies). A slice of life, Juno provides an unvarnished, yet forgiving look at the failures and triumphs of ordinary people thrust into a crisis pregnancy.

Juno, the film's hip, wise-cracking namesake, masterfully played by Ellen Page, struts her way across town as the credits roll, to take her third pregnancy test of the day. The toe-curling awkwardness of the ‘love scene' which proceeded this moment is shown without romance, making the audience cringe at the utter recklessness of the teens. The pathetic irony of the sixteen year old's predicament is heightened by the store clerks comment, "That's a doodle that can't be undone" and the non-reaction of Juno's best friend, Leah the cheerleader, who can't seem to get her mind around the situation. Juno seems headed for heartbreak, as she mechanically attempts to deal with her pregnancy by calling the local abortion clinic, as her friends have done. Her boyfriend Bleeker (Michael Cera) though sensitive, avoids involvement with the "whatever you want to do is fine with me" line, despite Juno's dramatic efforts to tell him that their fling has had lasting consequences. He is able to continue his typical high school life, running with the track team and even lining up a prom date in view of Juno's unsuitability. This harsh realism stands in stark contrast with the classic teen love scene with soft lighting, spinning cameras, and music. This is the hard reality which sexually active teens experience, and Juno takes it head-on, with a surprising sense of humor which makes you admire the little sparkplug Juno who won't be undone by her one immature act.

Before her ex-military dad (JK Simmons) and distant step mom Bren (Allison Janney) are apprised of her crisis, Juno finds herself approaching alone the retro "Women Now" abortion clinic, where she encounters a timid teenager chanting, "Babies want to be borned". The two girls, who are classmates, recognize each other and a start to chat about school, however, as Juno continues on to the entrance of the clinic, the girl suddenly remembers why she is there, and frantically reminds her, "Your baby has a heartbeat and fingernails now." Somehow, the fact that her unborn child has fingernails nearly stops Juno in her tracks. She warily enters the clinic, and her reluctance is increased by the nonchalant attitude of the receptionist who demands all her "hairy details" on a form, and the anxiety of the other women in the dismal waiting room which "smells like a dentist's office". Juno flees the scene, to the delight of the protester, as her odyssey begins.

Juno scans the Pennysaver for adoptive couples. She wants a couple who are cool, with her taste in punk music, and horror flicks, and, finding an attractive couple she makes an appointment with them to discuss adoption. Armed with this plan, she breaks the news to Bren, her stepmother, and Dad, who offers to accompany her to her first meeting with Mark(Jason Bateman) and Vanessa Loring.(Jennifer Garner) in their McMansion in the wealthy side of town. Vanessa is ecstatic at the prospect of becoming a mother, a role, she assures Juno, she was born for. Her husband, Mark is less than enthusiastic, trying to appear fatherly to appease his wife. It shows that things in the yuppie palace may not be as ideal as they look.

Little of what follows goes according to Juno's hastily made plans, but she manages to endure a growing belly, the mockery of her peers, and Bleeker's lack of involvement with admirable spunk. Ellen Page is outstanding in this demanding role, never dipping into melodrama or cynicism, always believable as a teen whose self-possession in a crisis makes her the more mature character of the drama. Bren, who plays a loving but firm stepmother, holds Juno's hand throughout the pregnancy and even her macho dad (Rowling) shows masculine tenderness towards his daughter as he accompanies her to the hospital. It's always an inspiration when inadequate parents suddenly find their role in a crisis, and Diablo Cody, the screenwriter, gives them their due. She deserves praise for a witty screenplay with insightful characters, which rise above stereotypes about teenage mothers.

Juno resembles Napoleon Dynamite in its' irritating banality, and its coffee-shop singer soundtrack composed by Mateo Messina and sung by Kimya Dawson (though it occasionally hits a poignant note). Director Jason Reitman focuses on the tacky, cluttered working class world of the teen parents Juno and Bleeker, contrasted to the plush serenity of the adoptive couple's world.

Juno would be an interesting film for high school health classes, as it shows without apology, the process of modern adoption. Crude, sometimes profane language, partial nudity and adult themes, I recommend this film for older teens, as Juno's taste in horror films as well as an inappropriate, partially nude, sexual act may be too much reality for innocent younger teens (you have the option of arriving during the credits and missing most of this scene).

Juno would be perfect discussion catalyst for parent-teen night out, or a crisis pregnancy center.



Mother to three daughters and a Literature instructor, Leticia has always loved writing, good literature, and classic films. She became a blogger in 2006, and began to include film reviews on her blogs, Causa Nostrae Laetitiae, and Cause of Our Joy Suddenly Leticia was thrust into the world of film criticism when Eric Sheske of the National Catholic Register mentioned her blog as a source for Catholic film reviews. The next day, an invitation arrived to attend a film premiere in Hollywood, which she accepted, and a film critic was born. Leticia began Catholic Media Review to guide parents in their decisions on whether to let their children see a particular film. She also promotes independent family films like “Bella”, and “Fireproof” so that they can reach a larger audience. Her goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture to what Pope John Paul II called a “Culture of Life”. She realizes that the pivotal role the media has to play in this transformation, and is determined that those who would defame Christ’s message do not have the last word. She writes film and book reviews for the following publications: MercatorNet, Catholic Exchange, Catholic Online, and “National Catholic Register”. Her reviews have been posted at the websites of Reuters, IMBD, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, and various TV news stations.

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  • Guest

    Just something to consider about the movie:  The ending clearly portrayed is 'happy'.  The message , I believe, is that if you get pregnant as a teen, you can just give it up for adoption, then get together with the father and start up your old band.  In other words, teen pregnancy isn't really that big of a deal.  We all know that in real life it's much harder!  One young teenage girl (who are the bulk of people seeing this movie) was overheard leaving the movie saying "pregnancy seems cool."   I think we underestimate the strong impression this form of art has on young minds.