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Film Reviews from 2007

Film Reviews
from 2006


Juno is one of those small, independent movies that’s been making a lot of noise lately.  This movie about a pregnant 16 year old has been lauded for it’s smart screenplay, fine performances, and, surprisingly life-affirming message.  It’s frequently mentioned as a strong contender for several Oscar nominations.  Usually, I go to movies like this with a mixture of excitement and a bit of anxiety.  What if it’s overrated, as is so often the case (No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd)?  I’m delighted to say that Juno is every bit as good as I’d hoped. 

Juno MacGuff and her boyfriend Bleeker have sex one time in a recliner, and Juno finds herself pregnant.  Initially she intends to have an abortion, but, at the last minute, changes her mind.  Juno and her friend find an ad in a newspaper for a nice looking young couple who want to adopt.  Juno and her dad make an appointment to meet the couple.  They turn out to be a rich young couple who desperately want to have a child.  Juno and her father agree to the adoption of her child.

At first, Juno seems too hip for its own good.  A scene between Juno and a drugstore clerk who sells her a kit for a pregnancy test is filled with youthful jargon.  It doesn’t take long before the ear becomes used to the dialogue and I was won over by Juno and her world.  Juno is a remarkably self-assured teenager, who knows what she wants and is a keen (and very funny) observer of everyone around her.

Juno’s original screenplay was written by Diablo Cody, a first time screenwriter.  Cody has become something of an overnight sensation in Hollywood, and is now writing a regular column for Entertainment Weekly.  Along with director Jason Reitman, Cody creates a world that in some respects looks pretty normal:  middle class Midwestern homes, a large suburban high school, populated by kids trying very hard to be cool, and adults who, for the most part, are decent people who try to do the right thing.  While the humor in Juno can be sharp, it is never mean-spirited or condescending.  Juno’s father and stepmother seem clueless and self-centered at first.  But as the film progresses, you realize they really love Juno and are there to support her.  As an aging baby boomer, I was happily surprised that the adults are not all morons, as in most movies with teens as central characters. 

I was not familiar with teen actress Ellen Page, who plays the title role.  She is great as Juno, alternately fascinated by her pregnancy, scared by the experience, and horrified by the way she looks.  Juno is aware of the stares and comments made behind her back, but she never flinches in her determination.  Page is supported by a great cast of familiar actors, including J. K. Simmons as her father, Allison Janney as her stepmother, Michael Cera as Bleeker, and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as Vanessa and Mark, the seemingly perfect adopting couple.  If any recent movie deserved an award for an ensemble cast, this is it.

In spite of, or maybe because of, its cool, hip attitude, Juno manages to be surprisingly touching.  I hope I don’t give too much away by saying that the characters (with one possible exception) find happiness.  Juno matures over the nine month duration of her pregnancy.  At the end, she doesn’t regret her decision, and is a wiser young woman because of it.  The final scene, with Juno and Bleeker singing and playing guitar on his front steps, is just right.    

Juno relies on honesty and humanity, and a sharp sense of detail to find its humor and ultimately its truth.  I like the way Reitman uses music and bits of animation to give the story a distinctive sound and look. 

Some who read this may wonder if Juno condones sex between teenagers.  My sense of the characters is that the sexual act happened one time .  In the film, Juno looks in disbelief at her parents and other adults who ask how long she’s been “sexually active,” The film implies that the sexual encounter was a single incident.  My favorable review does not mean that I condone sex between teens. In the same way, I do not condone violence when I give a favorable review to movies like The Bourne Ultimatum.

I think Juno is one of those little films that people will remember fondly in the years to come as a commentary on our time.  I look forward to seeing it again soon.

Tom Condon, OP      

"Juno relies on honesty and humanity, and a sharp sense of detail to find its humor and ultimately its truth."







The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III -- adults (though possibly appropriate for older teens).The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned.

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