Juno stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera in a film about dealing with things more mature than most high schoolers have to deal with. We begin with Juno MacGuff - a 16 year old girl who has recently become pregnant. She tells the father, Paulie Bleeker, of the news. At first, Juno thinks of aborting the baby, as she sees it as a gigantic responsibility to handle. She sees her pro-life classmate and ultimately decides that she can’t terminate her pregnancy. Together with her closest friend, Juno decides to have the baby, but put it up for adoption. They find a couple willing to adopt in the paper, and Juno breaks the big news to her father and stepmother. They are surprisingly supportive about the situation. Juno’s father decides to go with her to meet the couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring. Everyone comes to an agreement after Juno gets a small look at Mark’s previous life as a musician. Fast forward a season, Juno is ready to get an ultrasound scan. Her friend and stepmom come with her, and she decides not to hear the gender. She takes the ultrasound to Mark. The two bond over slasher films and music while Vanessa is not home, and as she gets home, she is also shown the ultrasound. Juno and her friend go out to the mall, and they happen upon Vanessa, happily engaging with a small child. She sees Juno as she’s leaving, and Juno asks her to put her hand on her belly and feel for some kicking. After some heartfelt conversation, the baby kicks for her. Back at school, Juno is informed that Bleeker is taking another girl to prom. Juno gets irrationally mad at Bleeker, who says that she broke his heart. Juno visits Mark again, yet another time for music, films, and bonding. As the situation gets intimate, Mark reveals that he wants to leave Vanessa. Juno implores him not to right as Vanessa gets home. Juno leaves in tears as the two contemplate their divorce. She breaks down crying in her car, but returns to the Loring residence to leave a note, which the contents of are not revealed. She returns home and talks to her father about love, and whether it truly lasts. Through this conversation, Juno realizes she is in love with Bleeker. At his track practice, Juno tells Bleeker that she loves him, and the two happily kiss. Juno goes into labor while Bleeker has his big track meet, and he realizes this although he was not told. Juno gives birth to a boy, and Vanessa is shown picking up the baby. The contents of the note are revealed - “Vanessa, I’m still in if you are.” The film concludes with Bleeker and Juno singing together.
Considering the director had Ellen Page in mind when he read the script, the casting choice may have been near-perfect for the title character of Juno. Page brought a certain quality of realism to the character, who needed to be strong but vulnerable at the same time. This was most evident in Juno’s confession of love to Bleeker. The casual way she delivers the line while also showing great love was fantastic. “You’re like, the coolest person I know, and you don’t even have to try,,,” Michael Cera opposite Page was also great. He may be the definition of “typecasted”, but he does perform that role very well. After Page delivers that line, Cera follows with an awkward “I try really hard, actually.” While nothing exceptional, the supporting actors of Jason Bateman as Mark and Jennifer Garner as Vanessa served their purpose. While I, personally, like both of the actors, I feel that these were not standout performances.
The aspect of Juno that I loved most was how real it felt. Besides Ellen Page giving a performance that accurately captures the angst of the high school years, the love story driving the film itself felt, in a way, homemade. Diablo Cody’s personal experiences shown through the screenplay of Juno, and it gave it a feel where it was happening, in real time, to someone out there. Being in high school myself, the story’s realism also gave it a great sentimental feel. What was not exceptional was the directing - besides the choice of casting Ellen Page and the extravagant title sequence, Reitman did not really leave his mark on the film. There were no fantastically arranged camera shots, nuances, or anything of the sort. If most any other director was put in his shoes, the film would have come out as it did, if not better.
Two big themes surface themselves through Juno - the first is that love isn’t perfect, and the other emphasizes the coming-of-age and teenage angst of a high schooler, but from a girl’s point of view. Love isn’t perfect - this is shown again and again throughout Juno. We see it from the beginning of the film and Juno narrating - “It started with a chair”. That’s nobody’s idea of a “first time” with somebody. It comes together in the track practice scene, with Juno’s awkward declaration of love followed by their kiss. Ellen Page said it best when discussing the second theme. “Girls … don’t have our Catcher in the Rye.” Juno serves as a teenage girl’s Caulfield, as we see her character go through the maturity needed to make these decisions with the baby and her life. She tells Bleeker of her love, she sticks to her plan with Vanessa and the baby, and she does this all with her own inner strength. Young girls have something to identify with and even admire in Juno.
Juno is a film about the importance of your relationships. This can apply to everyone, but it is most easily recommendable to high schoolers, as that is the setting that the subject matter takes place in. It resonates with me, personally, as a high schooler. I think that this film is worth a watch by everyone over the age requirement of the MPAA’s R-rating. Although not fantastic, Juno excessively cusses its way into the hearts of the audience and may resonate with some more than others. It’s hard to dislike, although some may see it as generic. To this critic, the film can’t be more of the opposite - it’s a good film made better by a great sentimentality.