Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner, Michael Cera
Runtime: 96 mins
Rating: * * * *
Roger Ebert, probably the most well known film critic in the world, rated Juno as the best film of 2007, above No Country for Old Men and There Will be Blood. He is losing his marbles. The unequivocal praise heaped on Juno is symptomatic of the death of comedy cinema, a situation which has meant that the mediocre Knocked Up and Superbad have found some modicum of critical praise. Juno is better than these films, and better than Reitman’s previous effort, Thank You for Smoking, but like its predecessor it’s witty rather than hilarious, and instead of exploring new ground, the teenage pregnancy is a plot device to provide everything we’ve seen before in a neater, snappier, better-acted amalgamation.
There are a lot of things it does well. The dialogue is clever and pithily delivered, and never slips into frothiness even when the narrative does. Juno’s role as “the cautionary whale” is brilliantly played by Ellen Page, who actually looks like she could be 16; it’s nice that they’ve gone for young actors to play young people, rather than the normal Hollywood quantum leap, whereby some dried up old husk lands the girl next door role. It’s also good to see Jennifer Garner still has some semblance of a career. Juno never becomes gross-out comedy, and doesn’t patronise an adolescent audience. There’s an uncomfortable moment of dramatic tension where Juno gets a little too close with the potential adoptive father of her baby; more than most comedies manage.
Nevertheless, the stereotypical geek, cheerleader and modern mother are all present. The plot strands are resolved a little too happily, and the idea of music connecting people is one that is getting a little worn. What endeared me to it, though, is Juno’s anger that it is she who must live through the consequence of unprotected sex, and her strength of will as the older characters’ relationships come apart.