Warm, likable, but not nearly as cool as it imagines itself to be, Juno is nevertheless chock full of good performances.
The much celebrated Diablo Cody (former phone-sex operator & stripper) script is worthy of some applause. It’s a tight little number, and every character is believable. But it’s also as light and fluffy a take on teen pregnancy as you could get. The ‘daring’ subject matter (for Hollywood anyway) has been packaged up in cheery colours and cutesy camerawork just so Mum can say she saw an ‘indie’ film.
Director Jason Reitman kind of ruins it a little bit with his regurgitated bag of indie tricks made popular five years ago. The soundtrack lies on the daft end of the indie pop spectrum. Twee vocals and guitar strumming do not equal instant credibility with an alternative crowd. The name dropping that goes on – Sonic Youth is, like, the best band ever – is slightly embarrassing. It makes the filmmakers seem like frauds: pretending they are hip and innovative but craftily stealing from better material, painting over it, and selling it as new.
And as for the character Juno, herself: some will like her, some won’t. I found her a smug, smarmy, insufferably obnoxious know-it-all (to give the filmmakers some credit, I merely disliked her by the end). Screenwriter Cody puts such cloyingly self-reflexive dialogue into Juno’s mouth that it’s initially hard to warm to her.
But the film’s major saving grace is that, even if Reitman is lacking in stylistic originality, at least he knows how to get actors working. Ellen Page, as Juno, does a fantastic job, even if the words that come out of her mouth are grating. Jason Bateman is marvelous as a hen-pecked husband, and Jennifer Garner is quite sweet. Michael Cera, as always, steals the show. He is not in this movie enough. He should be. He is great.
But the film is painfully aware of what its purpose is, of what it’s trying to achieve. Arriving heavy with hype, Juno is a disappointment to anyone hoping for something great. Juno is well-performed but unremarkable.