Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Juno - Queen of the Blogs

Juno - Bloggers rejoice. Diablo Cody, proprietress of The Pussy Ranch blog, has spun the ultimate post - the screenplay of Juno, an extraordinarily funny movie that takes a thoughtful and interesting look at teen pregnancy and related phenomena. Juno, both the movie and the character played by Ellen Page, take off before the opening credits and never stop. Juno chugs a half gallon of Sunny D, strolls through a rampaging cross country team into an entertaining animated credit sequence, emerges and remorphs to human form, enters the Quickie Mart and buys a pregnancy test kit. This transaction is utterly and completely over the counter, as clerk Rainn Wilson sells "Fertile Myrtle" Juno her third test kit and explains the result isn't going to change, a prophecy she confirms immediately in the Quickie Mart bathroom.

Juno quickly navigates some pregnancy ABCs, cracking wise all the while. She tells the baby's father, Bleeker (Micheael Cera), enlists sympathy and assistance from her best friend Leah (Olivia Thrilby), crosses a one girl pro-life picket line at a local abortion clinic, switches her goal from abortion to adoption, finds prospective adoptive parents through the local pennysaver and tells her own father and step-mother. The pace finally slows, a little, as Juno interviews the would be adoptive parents. The husband, Mark Loring (Jason Bateman) is cool. The wife, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) is a little desperate, but it seems like a nice home and Juno closes the deal on an "Old School" closed adoption.

Life as a pregnant high school student is no picnic, but Juno still has her best friend Leah, taking things a little too calmly, but always on her side. Juno doesn't know quite what to do with Bleeker, and Bleeker is listening to everything Juno says but hearing nothing she means. Mark Loring is a musician who seems to be getting along too well with Juno and not well enough with his wife. When he announces he's moving out to a loft in the city, Juno faces a new round of choices. What will happen to the baby, to Juno, to Juno and Bleeker?

Diablo Cody was "discovered" as a blogger and submitted the Juno script as a demo to establish credibility so she could pitch herself as screenwriter for a different movie - one based on her book Candy Girl, a humorous look at her year as a stripper. Juno has a lot in common with Judd Apatow's recent successes (Knocked Up comes to mind for some odd reason), but Cody is a feminist Apatow on speed. Like Knocked Up, the story has a warm hearted core and much of the dialog is the kind of buddy banter that Apatow has mastered, but with Juno it's not just buddies who banter it's everyone, everywhere, led by Ellen Page. It's not just banter either, a few of the funniest lines are completely ordinary statements, placed and timed to get yet more laughs. The dialog has everything you wish you had said when you are thinking about a conversation the next day, and more. Even if it's too smart to be true at times, you will be laughing too often to notice.

If Juno were just a comedy it would be well worth seeing, but Director Justin Reitman and Cody take on teen pregnancy with originality and warmth as they present fresh characters that are fully developed despite the fast pace of the story. Cera is awkward and believable as a very young man who loves Juno and wants to do the right thing, if she will only tell him what that is. Juno's Dad and Step mom, JK Simmons and Allison Janney, create likeable, memorable characters in limited screen time. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner also establish their characters quickly, as Bateman's charming cool slides credibly into a flawed indifference while Garner's desperation ultimately makes her seem like a real mom. The real character is Juno, and only a feminist could write the world through Juno's eyes as well as it's done here, a feminist who respects her character's choices. Juno starts out talking a blue streak, a very sophisticated and funny blue streak, when she's scared and clueless. She winds up making decisions that work for everyone. Juno knows very well that she's named after the queen of the gods, Jupiter's one and only wife. The cross country team circles constantly, a presence somewhere between a Greek chorus and Erronius from "Forum", but the thundering herd of male runners never fails to part smoothly for Juno.

This will be the last pre release film review posted here until February. Top picks from this Fall are Juno and Outsourced. Others well worth seeing, are Ira & Abby, Look and The Cake Eaters. Love In The Time of Cholera features a timeless character. Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Grace is Gone, Amexicano, Canvas and Orphanage are all films that As Good As News recommends, but not on a night when you seek something light.

Today's One Answer Only

21. Across - Grouch: grump

Grouchy grump, like today, up too late last night writing the Juno review, and like the day As Good As News posted Lost Plan Dynosaur Rant.

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