The key to embracing Juno is to harbor the anticipation of seeing real growth throughout. The titular character played by the brilliant Ellen Page is a whip-smart teenager who gets pregnant. She grows up by realizing how she is not as mature or as intelligent as she thinks she is and that her precocious observations and assumptions about the adults around her do not translate into reality. The same can be said for this film; it starts off with a sputter but gradually picks up steam to close in a truly moving finish.
I have to admit that the rocky opening did have me worried, as all of the film’s dialogue for the first 20 minutes or so really sounds like it is trying too hard to be quirky in that indie-film fashion that is at last turning into a cliché. A notable example is the exchange between Juno, who is buying her third pregnancy tester in a convenience store, and the store clerk, Rollo (Rainn Wilson), who teases her after she sees a plus sign, “What’s the result, fertile-myrtle? That ain’t etch-o-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be undead.” Even her discussions with her best friend, Leah (Olivia Thirlby), about what to do with the baby seem awfully glib for a teenager and it looked like Diablo Cody’s first-time screenplay was inserting every smart phrase and cutesy name-calling it could think of without finding a steady rhythm.
Soon enough, however, the film turns warm and truthful and the characters very particular when she decides to tell her dad and stepmother, Mac (J.K. Simmons) and Bren (Allison Janney), who have to be the most understanding, benevolent parents in movie history. They react with shock of course; even with the consolation that she has decided to have an abortion and that she has already found a willing couple of potential adoptive parents, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) from a classified ad. Neither of the parents panic or get angry, however, and when Mac flatly but not coldly says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when,” Juno’s reply is the most honest line in the film: “I don’t know what kind of girl I am.”