And now comes JUNO. Yes, you’ve heard the hype. It’s the critics’ darling, and writer Diablo Cody is being hailed as the new voice of her generation (even though she writes about a different generation), so there’s every reason to go into the theatre expecting a big loud thud. But surprise surprise, it was not a major letdown. It was actually…good. Very good even. One of my top ten favorites of the year.
The subject was teen pregnancy. Juno gets pregnant and (SPOILER ALERT) has a baby.
It was funny, touching, quirky – everything every indie movie says they are but aren’t. The dialogue just crackles although I have to stop short of saying Cody is this remarkable fresh new voice because Don Roos writes in the same style (see THE OPPOSITE OF SEX). But boy can she write. As good as the movie was I enjoyed reading the screenplay more.
Cody did so many things right. She created vivid unique characters, gave them major problems, took them on emotional journeys, had a strong point of view, and was smart enough to construct a simple story. It was easy to follow, tracked, and built to a satisfying conclusion. It sounds simple but so many spec screenplays are so complicated you can’t follow them without a code book.
I could see why director Jason Reitman responded to this material. Anytime you can get to page 50 without having to say, “What the hell is this movie about?” you know you’ve got a potential winner.
Cody was very lucky in that her script fell into the right hands with Reitman. The cast, tone, and look of the film was pitch perfect. God forbid if the Farrelly brothers had made this movie there’d be a fifteen minute water breaking set piece with people slipping on the embryonic fluid. But Reitman stays true to the material and doesn’t try to add his own “special touch”, which is Hollywood-speak for fucking up the picture.
Ellen Page was sensational as Juno. It was so nice not to see Mandy Moore in the role (as a major studio would have insisted). And who knew? Jennifer Garner can really ACT? I think with this film she’ll now start getting the roles Julia Roberts used to get and thinks she’s still young enough to get (sorry Julia, mother and congresswoman parts await).
The only thing I will say is don’t expect JUNO to be some groundbreaking movie that will change the industry and you forever. But seeing a smart original little film with a great script and performances should be enough, right?