Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review: Juno

If I were to offer any complaint about the smash summer comedy Knocked Up, it would be that it is from the perspective of the guy that donates the seed, instead of following the woman who gets knocked up. That small problem is rectified in Juno, the new film from Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) written by newcomer Diablo Cody and starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman.

Almost any kind of simple plot synopsis wouldn't really do this film justice. Basically, Page plays Juno, a high schooler who has sex with her best fried (Cera) and gets pregnant. She decides to keep the baby and let a childless couple (Garner & Bateman) adopt it. Those two sentences don't even begin to describe how brilliant this film is though; it really exceeding every gigantic expectation I had when I walked into a preview screening in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.

I am a huge fan of Arrested Development, so it was great to see Michael Cera and Jason Bateman in the same movie again, even though they didn't share any screen time. They are both great at being either leading men or filling character holes, and Juno is filled to the brim with quirky, indie characters that fill every niche in the indie-movie blueprint. There's a dog-obsessed stepmother, a vulgar friend, and a host of other small parts that get great lines courtesy of Cody's incisive and side-splitting screenplay.

Diablo Cody was hand-picked to write Steven Spielberg's next project after this movie, and she's got a host of other projects in the works specifically because of how amazing this script turned out. It feels very hip, but very easy going, flowing easily from one fantastic line to the next. Garner and Bateman get great exposition as a wife increasingly ready to be a mother and a husband who isn't sure but doesn't say it.

The soundtrack is also an amazing mix of indie rock you probably have never heard of. Kimya Dawson and The Moldy Peaches provide many of the songs on the advice of Page that they would be what the actual Juno MacGuff would listen to. The songs fit perfectly into the color scheme, attitude, and tempo of the film. You can find my favorite song from the soundtrack at the bottom of this post.

The script, soundtrack, and all the rest of the performances aside, Ellen Page is front and center for the entire film and carries it the whole way. She is nothing short of amazing for the full running time, careening from emotional high to low with incredible accuracy. This is the kind of exposition I wish we saw of Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up. Juno is dealing with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, being in love with her best friend, going through high school, and growing up. As she says to her father, "I don't really know what kind of girl I am yet." That Juno is still figuring her life and finds a way through a difficult pregnancy, and we believe it every step of the way is a credit to Reitman, Cody, and especially Page.

I implore each and every one of you to go out and see this film. It's definitely one of the best of the year, and provides a great, possibly superior complement to Knocked Up. See it at all costs, you'll be hearing about it for months, and Page, Cera, Cody, and Reitman will be riding the wave this movie creates for years to come.

The Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You

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