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Juno February 6, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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It has toured the festival circuit. It has been nominated for the Oscars in the Best Film, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay categories. Roger Ebert has picked it as his favorite this year. Rumored to be made for about $2.5 million, this indie film has crossed the 100 million mark at the domestic box office. Unanimous praise from the critics and the audience alike makes this one film that you don’t want to miss. And the praise is not unwarranted. I enjoyed this one much more than indie comedies of recent years like Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine.

2007 had already seen two comedies woven around unplanned pregnancies, Knocked Up and Waitress, both critically-acclaimed (I haven’t seen them yet). Juno also is centred around this theme. Juno is sixteen, in high school and pregnant from her first sexual encounter. She doesn’t want to believe it at first and then decides to get rid of the problem quickly. Not as easy as it seems and that makes her take a hard decision. The events that occur in that year of her life is what the film is about.

This simple film is not only a delight to watch but it also left me feeling happy at the end, making me want to watch it again, this time paying closer attention to any of the razor-sharp dialogue that I’d missed.

Young screenwriter Diablo Cody (who apparently was a stripper for a little while in her past before turning a blogger, which eventually led to her current occupation) possesses a great sense of humor and seems to have a gift for writing witty dialogue. This film is filled with such dialogue (I wonder if Cody talks like Juno) from characters who behave like normal people (and are a bit more practical than the average person). In between the moments that bring a smile, Cody’s script unfolds the characters, their quirks and their emotions and the film becomes more than just a bunch of laughs. Director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) brings his imagination to the equation and crafts a special film.

The film has some captivating performances. While I was watching this film, I felt like I was watching the characters and not the actors (familiar ones included). Ellen Page (Hard Candy) who plays Juno MacGuff is surely the best of the lot. Her rendering of Juno is not only believable but makes her extremely lovable by the end of the film. Page creates a charismatic Juno with her body language, dialogue delivery and expressions being spot on. Michael Cera (Superbad) is strong in an understated performance as Paulie Bleeker. It is easy to forget him in a film where everyone else gets to mouth humorous dialogue. Allison Janney and J K Simmons (Spiderman) are very effective and feature in some superb scenes. Jason Bateman (The Kingdom) delivers a first-rate performance and is quite believable as the wannabe rocker who is a bit of a mismatch with his wife and is reluctant to be a father. Jennifer Garner (Elektra) is earnest as the strait-laced woman who is desperate to become a mom. Olivia Thirlby as Juno’s friend Leah also manages to get noticed.

Special praise for the music of this film. The extremely unusual soundtrack has some catchy tunes with unique lyrics (All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar being my favorite) and the songs fit in perfectly with the tone of the film.

Though this film revolves around teenagers, this hardly has the elements common to most teen films and in general, avoids formula. The characters feel real and are played just right. The scenes are believable and make you feel connected even if you haven’t been around such people at all. The humor is intelligent and emanates from the dialogue as well as the situations. The laughs keep coming, the characters grow on you slowly and the experience strikes a chord deeper than you would expect and touches you even if you might not consciously realise it as it is happening.

I am glad Diablo Cody decided to became a screenwriter.

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