Juno just had sex for the first time at sixteen and finds herself with a bun in the oven. What to do: abortion or adoption? Friends and parents weigh in, but it will have to be her choice. And that first choice leads to other difficult choices that have to be made about her baby's future. Going by the plot, you might think this an after-school special, but it is a comedy and a pretty good one at that.
I had heard so many positive things about Juno that I was afraid it would let me down when I finally saw it. But while I do not completely get the hype, it is indeed an entertaining movie. It has a very liberal tone and will no doubt hit a nerve with conservatives. Teen pregnancy being portrayed in an upbeat manner is unusual, though I suppose it would have been more shocking if the story had ended with an abortion. I can imagine concerned parents foreseeing waves of knocked up teens, cheerfully shooting out babies at adoptive parents with baseball gloves. Given the rate of teen pregnancies though, it is refreshing to see a light-hearted take on the subject, maybe lifting the taboo somewhat.
Admittedly, the movie is a bit too easygoing about what is really a major, dramatic event. The parents are slightly sarcastic but very supportive, as is the accidental father. Juno herself has only two scenes that show the deep emotional impact the situation has on her. The rest of the time she is a wise-ass, as willfully alternative as the indie soundtrack that pervades the movie. Her dialogue is often funny but a bit artificial, which keeps reminding you she is a character.
Juno - the movie - never quite feels realistic either; the script is too lovingly, neatly crafted for that. But because of a charming cast, you end up not caring about that. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are a lot of fun as Juno's parents and Jennifer Garner pulls off a nice and subtle piece of acting, our feelings about her morphing over the course of the movie even though her character remains pretty much the same. There is one scene in particular that is brilliantly done, in which she talks to Juno's unborn baby by way of her stomach. You start out cringing at it but by the end you want to just give her a great, big hug. Especially if you just got accidentally knocked up, don't miss this movie. At the very least it will cheer you up a little.
Juno, 2007, 96 min. USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman.