Up the Duff MacGuff Escapes Bleeker Future
"Juno" starring the delightful Ellen Page is one of those movies that classification doesn't come easy, on one hand it's typical of a teenage coming of age movie but then it's also a romance plus a comedy, but not your normal generic sort of comedy as this is an off-beat comedy which subtle witticisms rather than unsubtle jokes. It's also surprisingly compelling drawing you into the world of Juno MacGuff as she deals with teenage pregnancy and the complications it brings with it. It's down to the wonderful performance of Ellen Page and the smart writing of Diablo Cody which makes "Juno" both interesting and compelling, despite being quite simplistic.
Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page - X-Men: The Last Stand) is not your typical teenager, as when she discovers that she's unexpectedly fallen pregnant she takes it all in her stride and sets about finding appropriate parents to adopt her child once it is born. With the help of her family, friends and the poor father of the baby, Paulie (Michael Cera - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) she decides on Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) a young, affluent couple who are desperate to adopt.
Usually off beat comedies fail in their quest to entertain me, they tend to garner critical acclaim for daring to be different but forget the key fact that they need to be entertaining. But "Juno" is very different as it keeps things remarkably simple, even somewhat matter of fact which makes the focus of the movie the witty dialogue and performances. It's part of the movies charm that it doesn't try to overly complicate the storyline with irrelevant sub plots and those that do crop up are used to enhance the main storyline.
But it is the comedy which really makes "Juno" so appealing and more importantly entertaining. None of the humour is obvious and never feels like it's being set up for the purpose of delivering a convoluted funny scene. Instead we get witty honest dialogue which makes you smile and laugh, not in an outrageous over the top manner but by the amusement in what Juno is saying and also how. In many ways it is compelling, you can't wait to hear what this matter of fact teenager has to say next knowing that it will raise a laugh but also that it will also be remarkably honest. Not all the comedy works and some of the more offbeat moments such as Juno's fascination with an abandoned armchair is just as a little bit too left field for my liking.
Whilst Cody Diablo's writing and in many ways Jason Reitman's direction makes "Juno" good, it is the remarkable performance of Ellen Page which takes the movie into the realms of being special. It is a brilliant performance from Page creating that slightly obnoxious feeling you would expect from any opinionated teenager but at the same time making her likeable. But it is the matter of fact way she delivers the dialogue, the subtle put downs, the actual fragility when she tells her parents that she is pregnant it is a wonderfully rounded performance from such a talented young actress.
But whilst Page makes "Juno" special, she is assisted by a wonderful cast including J.K. Simmons as her father, Jennifer Garner as Vanessa Loring the uptight woman planning to adopt her baby and of course Michael Cera who despite not doing much is actually quite funny as the geeky Paulie Bleeker the unwitting, tic-tac addicted father of Juno's baby. But the real stand out support performance comes from Jason Bateman who as Mark Loring interacts with Juno brilliantly. Although saying that the way his character and situation develops is a bit weird even out of sync with the way the rest of the movie feels.
What this all boils down to is that "Juno" is a wonderfully entertaining off-beat comedy, not something you will usually find me saying. The intelligent writing of Diablo Cody is definitely a major factor as to why "Juno" is such a delight, but it is the performance of Ellen Page as Juno which really stands out and makes you want to watch it. It's the sort of movie which won't have you killing yourself in laughter, but will make you smile at the honest observations and matter of fact way that Juno deals with teenage pregnancy.