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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Movie Review

    Movie Review

    “”Juno””, the latest indie hit all your friends are urging you to see, is one of those films that is really two movies. The first film seems to consist almost entirely of clever lines. At a certain point in the movie, though, the one-liners give way to a different kind of movie – a sweeter, sadder one. The magic of “”Juno”” turns out to be in the way the two movies grind up against each other, finding an unexpected eloquence in the lives of its terribly sensitive characters.

    The story concerns Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), a 16-year-old who finds herself pregnant after having sex with her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Instead of freaking out, Juno, after consulting her best friend (Olivia Thurlby) on her hamburger-shaped phone, duly troops out to the abortion clinic. Then, after finding the clinic, like, totally depressing, she decides not to. “”I am a sacred vessel,”” she informs her friend. “”All you got in your stomach is Taco Bell.””

    Juno is blessed with the least hot-headed parents in the history of teen movies, which means we are treated to the least clichéd “”I’m pregnant”” scene in the history of movies. When Juno’s father (J.K. Simmons) expresses half-hearted annoyance about Bleeker, her tart-tongued stepmother (Allison Janney) wisely notes, “”You know it wasn’t his idea.””

    Juno decides to find a couple to donate her baby to, and settles on a seemingly perfect pair of yuppies, Mark and Vanessa Loring. Mark (Jason Bateman) is a bored ex-musician who bonds with Juno over old horror movies and punk music, while Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) desperately wants a child – much more, it seems, than Mark does.

    The viewer figures it out fast: Of course Mark likes Juno, and of course it’s going to cause problems. But Juno doesn’t figure it out – though smart and precocious, she’s only 16, after all – and she desperately, desperately wants her baby’s parents to be perfect. The stage is set for heartbreak.

    For a while, Juno seems a little too hip to be real. She likes all the right movies, she’s into all the right bands, and her way of alerting her family that she’s going into labor is to yell “”Thundercats are go!””

    Then there’s screenwriter Diablo Cody’s made-up teenage slang, which consists of stuff like “”honest to blog!”” While it serves its purpose – letting us know that the world of “”Juno”” is not exactly naturalistic – it comes off as a little contrived. But it doesn’t ruin the movie.

    “”Juno”” has been criticized, ludicrously, because Juno decides not to have an abortion, which evidently makes it “”pro-life.”” Of course, a story can’t be “”pro-life””; the treatment of it is what matters. And “”Juno”” handles the situation with exquisite care.

    The humor and poignancy of the situation comes from how utterly competent and self-possessed Juno is. Instead of crying on Bleeker’s shoulder, she makes all the important decisions without even consulting him. She runs rings around everyone she knows, from her friends to her parents.

    The performances are outstanding. Bateman and Garner give beautifully subtle, naturalistic performances, letting us see their characters’ unexpected depth without becoming heavy-handed about it.

    Best of all are Cera and Page. Cera is adorably awkward and blissfully out-of-it; his response to Juno’s snarky remark that she never wanted to marry him – “”You’d be the meanest wife ever!”” – is perfectly delivered. Page, of course, is getting most of the attention, and she deserves it. By the end of the movie, she’s gone from being a mouthpiece for her screenwriter’s wish-I’d-said-that one-liners to a real, and touching, person. As she’d put it, she’s totally boss.

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