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Movie Review: Juno

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Most people label Juno as cute, which makes it sound like a chick flick. In reality, I found it to have a focused, well-written story with great dialogue and a rocking score by The Moldy Peaches. Suicide Girl-like screenwriter Diablo Cody effortlessly writes a story with real people and real situations.

Juno revolves around a 16-year-old-girl also named Juno (Ellen Page) who sleeps with her dorky best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) one night and immediately breaks off their friendship. The moment is forgotten until a couple of months later when she discovers she’s pregnant. She considers getting an abortion but settles on adoption. The aspiring parents, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring, have been unsuccessful at having a child of their own. Juno becomes attached to the adults who seem to represent her idea of perfect love and marriage. Meanwhile Paulie approaches Juno wanting to restart their abortive love affair. Juno cruelly rebuffs him. Though it’s obvious that she’s falling for him, it takes nine months to realize what that experience really meant.

Any guys reading this are probably going "hmmm…" This isn’t a Lifetime Movie of the Week. Be brave. Only one scene will make males cringe and all the females giggle. Just so we can move on, I’ll spoil it now. It involves cross-country runners and their short shorts. Okay, dudes? Really, everybody will like Juno because it’s not the usual 'redneck with a bastard child' story. I firmly believe the actual number of poor teenage runaways with abusive boyfriends is rarer than friends who fall in love. Boy or girl, everybody can relate to Juno because it doesn’t shove its lovers through a meat grinder of heartbreaks.

The characters don’t fit any one high school movie stereotype. Like real people they have many sides to their personalities. Juno is very complicated. She’s artistic but pursues some un-punk hobbies like going to the mall with her cheerleader friend, Leah.  A smart and plain-dressed bird, she is troubled enough that Paulie’s mom warns him away from her.   

Because she’s so confused, Juno is the perfect person to show how teens assume they know everything. She schools the older Mark Loring on his classic music and movie collection. It’s likely she saw a top ten list and is repeating what she read verbatim. More importantly, Juno doesn’t understand relationships. She picks Mark and Vanessa as adoptive parents because their love seems real at first. However she learns that marriages have cracks. That’s something she’s going to have to apply to her relationship with Paulie.

Besides the plot, I gotta spend more than a sentence describing the score for Juno. You are a smart man, Jason Reitman, for listening to Ellen Page and using the music of The Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson. The folksy guitar gives the story a Midwestern feel. The Peaches have been around for awhile but Dawson’s voice sounds youthful. It speaks Juno’s language. It’s crazy but the main track, “Anyone Else but You,” has already been used for the Murderball soundtrack and get this, a FIFA World Cup 2006 ad. Few besides Quentin Tarantino can take already released songs and identify them forever with their movie. No one’s going to hear this music and imagine soccer legend Zinedine Zidane headbutting some guy now.

The tunes make cool themes for Juno and Paulie. The duet “Anyone Else but You” represents Juno and Paulie’s love. It plays when Juno and Paulie make love during the intro and after they’ve made up at the end. “Tire Swing,” a song about being different than your lover, is Juno’s theme. This track is awesome for giving away Juno’s mood whenever it’s heard. Initially, it’s as a song of regret about getting pregnant. While she’s having the baby, it’s a song of hope.

Can I say anything bad about this movie? If I must knock Juno it’s that I didn’t agree with Juno’s final decision. I had to think about it a little too long before it clicked. Also, I needed more scenes with Michael Cera. Since Superbad, he’s every skinny guy’s hero. It’s really hard to run out of reasons to go see this movie. Diablo Cody wrote a tight script that doesn’t sidetrack into unnecessary scenes. The dialogue is hilarious, especially Juno’s. It’s bookish enough and right for a smart young girl. Juno’s a good story about growing up and learning no one’s life is perfect. Juno stops thinking too much about her mistakes and trust her feelings.

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