#6 – “JUNO” (2007)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Since appearing as “Boy Kissing Girl” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Kindergarten Cop” aged just 13 Jason Reitman has come on in considerable leaps and bounds, quick to step out from the shadow of his father (“Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman) and forge himself an impressive directorial career of his own with the likes of the 2005 political satire “Thank You For Smoking” and the 2009 Academy Award nominated “Up in the Air”.
But it was to be with the truly wonderful “Juno” that Reitman was to gain a great deal of cinematic kudos with a scathingly smart’n’sassy screenplay by professional blogger and ex-stripper Diablo Cody married to an electrifying central performance by the then 20 year old Ellen Page but two of the many masterstrokes behind this hilariously heart-warming romantic comedy.
Two years after wowing audiences and critics alike in David Slade’s psychological thriller “Hard Candy” Page once again walks away with the majority of the plaudits as the eponymous Juno delivering a performance that exudes confidence, sophistication, maturity, warmth and heart with a biting wit and an enviable grasp of comic timing. “Zeus had tons of lays but I’m pretty sure Juno was his only wife.”, she remarks, when quizzed on the origin of her unusual name. “And apparently she was supposed to be super beautiful but really mean, like Diana Ross”
Thankfully such eminently quotable bon mots are liberally scattered throughout Cody’s delightful screenplay yet never at the expense of character or emotion. For as Juno comes to terms with the fact that a new life is growing within her so too does she begin to re-evaluate her own life and, in particular, her true feelings towards the child’s father, one Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).
Cera’s performance as Bleeker is every bit the insecure teenager and whilst many have since criticised Cera for repeating the self same “deer in the headlights” geek chic in more or less every movie he’s subsequently starred in there’s no doubting that he’s got this particular corner of the market covered. Whether it’s his gangly form clad in bright yellow shorts and headband or his decidedly bewildered initial reaction to Juno’s pregnancy it may at times be confusing as to quite what Juno sees in such an individual but such uncertainties are sure to dissipate come the film’s conclusion whereupon you’ll be more or less convinced the two of them were destined to be together.
The film also benefits from a superb supporting cast with Reitman regular J.K. Simmons making the most of his brief screen time as Juno’s father and Jason Bateman delivering a typically assured performance as Mark, the husband of the couple chosen by Juno to become her child’s adoptive parents. But perhaps the biggest surprise comes from Jennifer Garner who puts all memories of the abysmal “Elektra” behind her and subsequently defies all expectation as Vanessa, Mark’s wife, a woman who, whilst initially appearing cold, obsessive and domineering, slowly develops into someone sure to elicit a great deal of empathy and admiration (not to mention tears) from the audience.
Yet amongst such a raft of stellar performances it’s perhaps ironic yet altogether fitting that the briefest of them all is the one to have the greatest impact on the characters. For though initially considered a burden Juno’s unborn child ultimately destroys the one relationship it was intended to heal and, perhaps more importantly, reignites the one that was, until recently, both overlooked, undervalued and unappreciated. Cue the moment whereupon the simple sight of hundreds of orange Tic Tacs is sure to have your heart performing back flips and a beautifully scripted scene between Juno and Paulie that is quite possibly one of the most tenderly beautiful reconciliations in recent movie memory.
Sonically the film’s unique tone and charm is further heightened by a great soundtrack which features tracks from the likes of “Sonic Youth”, “Mott the Hoople”, “Belle and Sebastian”, “The Velvet Underground” and “The Moldy Peaches” whose song “Anyone Else But You”, combines a whimsical acoustic charm with simple, childlike lyrics and ends the film on a beautifully heart-warming note.
Subsequent performances in Drew Barrymore directorial debut “Whip It” and Chris Nolan’s “Inception” have furthered Page’s meteoric rise to fame yet for me it’ll always be as the feisty Juno MacGuff that she’ll be most fondly remembered. Yet whatever the future may hold for Page “Juno” is certain to forever hold a place in my personal movie mythology.
Intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and acted, “Juno” is a truly delightful film that tackles a serious subject with both sensitivity and grace whilst finding plenty of time for a bellyful of laughs along the way.
“I need to know that it’s possible that two people can stay happy together forever.”
Track #9 – “ANYONE ELSE BUT YOU”
Written by Adam Green and Kimya Dawson
(Performed by The Moldy Peaches)