If you were to quickly take a peek at my "Favorite Films of 2007" post, you'll notice that I added Juno to the list. Go ahead, peek. I can wait ...
Directed by Jason Reitman (his follow-up to the hilarious Thank You for Smoking), Juno is the story of a 16-year-old named Juno (Ellen Page is absolutely amazing) who becomes pregnant after having sex (duh!) with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera, who is rapidly becoming the new poster boy for geek chic). After getting freaked out at the abortion clinic, she decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. Juno and her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) find who they think are suitable parents in the want ads, Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, both of whom are wonderful), who may not be the picture-perfect prospective parents we initially see them as.
Page is beyond superb as the cynical, sarcastic titular character. She can go from making hilariously wry wisecracks one minute to nearly breaking your heart the next. The movie is much more than the comedy most of the trailers paint it as. Sure, it's really funny, but its ability to turn on a dime and become something heartachingly poignant is what really makes it stand out. Phrases like "instant classic" are bandied about too frequently these days, but not by me, so when I put that stamp on something, you better believe it's something special.
I last saw Page in the independent film, Hard Candy (okay, I might have last seen her as Kitty Pryde in the accursed third X-Men film, but I try not to think about that one), in which she played a young girl who meets an older guy online, invites him over, accuses him of being a pedophile and proceeds to psychologically torture him for the next hour or so. And she was brilliant. She's got an incredibly bright future, this one.
The script by first-time screenwriter (and one-time stripper) Diablo Cody is filled with side-splitting pop culture references and some of the best, most realistic dialogue I've heard in a long time, from both the adults and the teenagers. Most kids Juno's age probably aren't quite so hip as to dig the Stooges and Italian director Dario Argento's horror flicks (or are they?), but hey, it's a movie, right? I particularly enjoyed the shout out to the enigmatic Tino, from TV's tragically short-lived My So-Called Life.
Rounding out the cast, as Juno's parents, are J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jamison in the Spider-Man films - I try not to think about that third one either) and Allison Janney (probably best known as C.J. Cregg on The West Wing), who are both such masters of their craft, every time they're on screen is a breath of fresh air. They both have these incredible deadpan deliveries and marvelous comedic timing.
The soundtrack for this movie was especially enjoyable. Lots of fun, quirky, sad, happy, indie kinds of songs. I need to get the soundtrack. And the screenplay. And Diablo Cody's book about her time as a stripper.
If you can't tell, I really loved this movie. It's just the right kind of quirky and cynical to complement its heartwarming core. Everyone should go see it. You can thank me later.