Someone once said that “Each one of us is born to play at least one role in our lifetime”. This applies to Ellen Page’s performance as Juno. She was born (or “borned” like a character in the movie says) to play Juno. Watched this little miracle of a movie again today on pay-per-view.
Juno is written by first time writer Diablo Cody and second time director Jason Reitman (impressive directorial debut with Thank you for smoking) . The movie is a comedy about a mid-western teenage girl who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and the events that follow. The movie deals with a very serious subject with quirky wit and non sappy sensitivity.
The movie might make some viewers cringe with its outward callousness towards the issue of teenage pregnancy. However, underneath that outward appearance is a fact that once it happens, there are only two ways to go about it – just as Juno says – “nip it in the bud” (there it is – an example of the callousness….) or “have the baby”. If the girl decides to have the baby, it’s the family and friends or any other support system that she might have that will be elementary in making the girl’s life easier after she has committed this ghastly mistake. Juno is essentially about that. It’s about family and friends accepting you no matter what mistakes you commit (you get pregnant or you are caught cheating at a test…not the same ballpark, but you get my drift).
Coming back to the movie – the script and the dialogues are extremely witty and funny. I have not met any teenager who talks like Juno does. She is way too smart for her age, but then she is one of a kind. She uses a hamburger phone and wears flannel but still uses lip-stick. She seems strong and mature for her age, yet she is confused when it comes to grown-up decisions and about the choices life has to offer.
Other than the main character of Juno, the supporting cast has been written with great care and detail – Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker plays a typical geeky diffident teenager with his now characteristic subdued and awkward demeanour.
Alison Janney as Juno’s stepmom Brenda is fiesty and very much the under-educated lower middle class middle-aged woman who does not necessarily like her step-daughter’s haughty nature, yet feels protective and instictvively motherly when towards her when the situation demands of it. Watch out for her in the scene in the clinic with the radiologist.
J.K.Simmons who plays the character of Juno’s father, Mac Mcguff, is a far cry from his cigar chewing editor of the Daily News in the Spiderman movies. His character is obviously upset by his daughter’s situation – he says after knowing that Juno is pregnant “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when”. But he also understands his daughter and the choices she has made and gets to accepting them and tries to make the best of the situation.
Jason Bateman (of Arrested Development) and Jennifer Garner play the couple Mark and Vanessa, who will adopt Juno’s baby – “They looked pretty even in black & white”, says Juno after seeing their picture in the local newspaper. Their relationship and characters are very well-defined even in the littel screen time they have. She is the prim-proper soft spoken rich wife, he – a boy trapped in a man’s body and a ill-fit marriage. Their fights are also very quiet just like the pastel colors of the walls of their house and furnishings.
Olivia Thirlby plays Juno’s air-headed best-friend Leah who is the exact opposite of Juno – she is pretty and comes out as a very shallow person compared to Juno. After my first viewing of the movie, I thought a girl like Juno can never be a friends with a girl like Leah, but then I realized that when you are young you do not choose your friends, you become friends with whoever stays next door or whoever sits next to you at school.
Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office) plays a miniscule role of the drugstore clerk and has some of the movie’s funnies lines.
There are scenes of incredible strength in the movie, to name a few:
– When Juno finds out that she is pregnant there is a scene where she makes a noose out of rope-candy and pretends to hang herself from a tree, and then ends up eating the candy in frustration. The scene speaks of a lot of things (IMO), she wishing that killing herself would be easier than facing the situation, but then comes to terms with herself and eats the candy signifying her strength and her innocence at the same time
– The scene where she breaks down in the minivan on the side of a road after realizing that Vanessa and Mark are breaking up and that her dream of giving her unborn baby a dream home is not going to happen. Her facial expressions show the emotions she is going through, her naivety that she believed that there is a perfect family somewhere out there (unlike her own), her realization that Vanessa is probably good enough to single-handedly raise her baby, her breaking down under the pressure (note her quivering lip) of knowing that she has to make a deicision about the life of the thing growing in her yet again and then the eventual making of the decision
– The scene when she comes back home after having made the decision in the above scene where she plucks a flower from the yard of her house and gently rubs it on her pregnany belly – “Sometimes you don’t realize how much you love your own home unless you have been some place different”. This is where IMO she comes to terms that other houses and families might look pretty and cool but her own family or home is not that bad at all.
– The scene where Juno’s dad is caressing his daughter after she has delivered the baby and says “You will be back here honey someday, on your terms”. What a scene and what a line!!
There are many funny and witty lines in the movie that draw a chuckle even after the movie is over. Few examples:
Juno to her dad – I’m losing my faith in humanity.
Juno’s dad – Think you can narrow it down for me?
Rainn wilson the drugstore clerk seeing Juno shake the pregnany test stick with a positive result – That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, homeskillet.
Leah after Juno tells her on the phone that she is pregnant – It’s probably just a food baby, did you have a big lunch?\
Juno screaming with labor pains asking for the spinal block (epidural) – You mean I have to wait for it to get worse? Why can’t they just give it to me now?
Brenda – Well, honey, doctors are sadists who like to play God and watch lesser people scream…
Juno to Paulie looking at his running shorts – Wow your shorts are like especially gold today.
Paulie – My mom uses color safe bleach.
Juno – Go Carol.
Vanessa asking if Juno will accept them as the parents for her baby : You think you’re really going to do this?
Juno MacGuff: Yea, if I could just have the thing and give it to you now, I totally would. But I’m guessing it looks probably like a sea monkey right now and we should let it get a little cuter.
More quotes here.
It’s hard to believe that you actually smile at the end of a movie about teenage pregnancy. The issue is definetely not something to smile about, it’s a hard fact of the society we live in today. Not all girls are fortunate enough to be like Juno, majority of them end up messing up their own lives and their babies’ lives, but we can only hope that at least some of them have an ending like Juno had.