“I knew this girl who like had this crazy freak out because she took too many behavioral meds at once and she like ripped off her clothes, and dove into the fountain at Ridgedale Mall and was like, ‘Blah I am a Kraken from the sea!’ ”
This film has been featured on an episode of my podcast about movies and mental health, Peculiar Picture Show!
Juno, directed by Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking) and starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman, is an offbeat teen comedy with quirky dialogue and surprising depth. It was written by Diablo Cody, an unknown writer at the time, with the intent of being a small indie film. But when it made back almost 20 times its production budget and won an Oscar for best original screenplay, it was clear that they had stumbled onto something magical.
Juno follows Juno MacGuff, a 16-year-old high school junior, who finds herself pregnant after initiating a sexual encounter with her best friend. When faced with a tough and unexpected situation, she chooses to make the best of it and give the baby up for adoption. Making the best of a bad situation is the theme of the movie, as Juno has to do that at least once more in the movie and discovers that others in her life have had to do the same thing. Juno quickly learns that the road from intention to action has more pitfalls than anyone ever anticipates.
Yeah, I came as soon as I got that ultrasound goo off my pelvis. It was crazy, actually, my step-mom verbally abused the ultrasound tech and we got escorted off the premises.
There were a lot of things that worked well in Juno: the writing, directing, acting, and soundtrack all blend together masterfully. The stand-out piece, though, is the character of Juno MacGuff. The performance by Ellen Page was fun and engaging and earned her an Oscar nomination that year. Juno is a complex character: simultaneously lovable and hard to love. She’s smart, funny, and delightfully different; but she’s also pretentious and prone to pushing people away. Even with her flaws, I couldn’t help but love Juno for her boisterous personality, wicked sense of humor, and razor-sharp wit.
Juno paints a picture that is not perfect. Every character has faults, and sometimes the characters that seem the most agreeable end up being the most contemptuous. The theme of people judging Juno for her character flaws without really getting to know her runs deep in this movie, and that lesson can be applied to everyone there: not everything is as it seems at first. Sometimes the people you’re drawn to don’t end up being the people who are good for you, and sometimes the best people in your life don’t start out that way. It’s a lesson most viewers can relate to, and it garners a lot of sympathy for the movie’s characters.
Juno has deeper characters and themes than most other teen movies; but it is still at its heart a teen movie. The dialog in particular will appeal more to a younger audience. But anyone who remembers high school vividly—or anyone who feels like an outcast from time to time—will find something to relate to in this movie. It’s fun and quirky, but doesn’t shy away from deeper or even darker themes. I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have an aversion to teenagers.
Winner: Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody)
Nominations: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Ellen Page), Best Achievement in Directing (Jason Reitman)
Director: Jason Reitman
Genres: comedy, indie, teen