Monday, January 28, 2008

Movie Review: Juno

There were two things I knew for certain when I walked out of this movie: first, this was the best movie I have seen in at least a year; and second, Ellen Page is the greatest actress of her generation. The last time I was stunned this way: Natalie Portman in The Professional. But Page is much better, if not quite as cute. Talent trumps all, and Ellen Page is the real deal. Her comic timing is impeccable, and Humphrey Bogart would be proud of this young woman who has his knack for acting without speaking.

What could have been American Pie meets She's Having a Baby quickly establishes itself as an original. Hard to do with all the elements of a typical high school flick: the popular jock, the geeky friend (Michael Cerra) who loves Juno (Ellen Page), her parents she leans on for support, the cheerleader girlfriend(Olivia Therby). But nothing goes quite the way we've been programmed to expect.

Take the scene where Juno tells her parents that she's pregnant. I won't spoil it for you, but how do you expect that scene to play out? Let's just say that in this brilliant screenplay by first-timer Diablo Cody, the parental units are not just mindless automatons. For the first time in history of the genre (if this can be nailed down to a single genre), parents have been allowed to think and to be an important part of their child's life. Stand up and clap for Allison Janney, as Juno's stepmom, and J.K. McGruff, as her father. Funny and simply lovable, they made it real.

You would expect at some point to meet a bad guy, someone whose intentions are bad. You might think we've finally met one or both of them in Jason Bateman (he's been gone way too long!) and Jennifer Garner, a couple that by all appearances has that which any American couple aspires. But not even within their damaged relationship can we really assign blame. They should have just agreed to see other people. Juno is the match that lights that cinder box, but again, not in any way you would expect.

This movie reminds me again that Hollywood has lost its spark. Perhaps it's been too busy telling us how to vote and defending child rapists rather than applying itself to the business we pay it for. Juno hearkens back to the old days when I would quote all the funny lines from a John Hughes movie, and my schoolmates already knew them by heart. I can only hope this is just a small sample of things to come.


20 comments:

Beth said...

I cannot read this as it started to tell the reader about the movie and I haven't seen it yet. I've heard only the best about it. My daughter saw it and enjoyed it too. I saw Sweeney Todd last weekend with kids and hubby. Should've went to see this, I think!

Scott said...

I didn't give away anything, Beth. Just enough to give you flavor, but I refrained from quoting from the numerous memorable lines.

Kaycie said...

My daughter saw this movie last week and she loved it. She something of a film buff, so that's actually saying something. There are many films she loves like that.

I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.

Sarah Hina said...

I adored this movie, Scott! So glad you posted about it. Ellen Page was quirky, yet lovable, and Michael Cera has got to be my favorite young actor working today. He plays the befuddled sweet guy so well.

At first, I thought the dialogue was a bit too clever, but it was so good, I let it pass. All of the supporting characters were three-dimensional, and the mixture of humor and emotion was played just right.

I would love to see it again. One of my favorites of the year, for sure. :)

Alan said...

Dude, spot-on review and very well written. I could not agree more. There's not a single character, (except the maternity nurse technician) who lacked dimension. It made me feel a range of emotions for each one (J.K. Simmons plays McGruff the Crime Dog?).

This movie made me take a stab at contemporary literature. I'm stalled atm, but your review restarted the spark of interest again.

Jane Harrington said...

I heard this movie was great. Can't wait to see it. And what a thoughtful post!

Hope you are doing good.

The Zombieslayer said...

I loved Natalie in The Professional so that's really saying something.

I'll have to see it then. And parents that aren't one dimensional automatons? That's a first.

Scott said...

Kaycie - You'll have to drop back in and let me know what you think of it.

Sarah - Agreed on Cera. He really got me at the end. As for the witty dialog, it reminded me of when I was a teenager and some of the things we would say and come up with. I don't think teenagers get enough credit for being smart.

Alan - How long ago did you see it? Sounds like it was a while ago. NYC offers early peeks it seems.

Janie - Doing good, and dang glad to see you!

Zombie - I thought you were going to crucify me for comparing her to Natalie because I know Ms. Portman has been invited to the compound in the event of a zombie plague. I'll wait until you see it before I rest easy.

Kathleen said...

I have only heard good things about this movie. The thing is I know I'll not see it until it's on DVD.

Kathleen said...

Oh yeah, I loved The Professional so much it put me on a Jean Reno kick and I rented all his movies.

Alan said...

I saw it on Christmas Day. It played on 66th and Broadway. So that's only 6 days before the new year, and it had to have been released in 2007 in order to be considered this year for the Oscars, no? Not too early?

Whatever New York's got, if you want to see it, you've got a buddy to go with right here.

mr. schprock said...

The missus and I saw it just the other day. I was primed to watch it because I heard the director and Diablo Cody interviewed on Fresh Air. Diablo Cody is a trip and a half. She and Ivan's boy, the director (forgot his name), really collaborated to the point where Diablo was allowed to be a constant presence on the set. That line about how they shoot babies out of T-shirt cannons at concerts in China was written on the spot one day while filming. Arrested Development fans will like seeing Michael Cera and Jason Bateman in the same project together. I totally loved the movie.

magnetbabe said...

You are the second person today to recommend this movie. I just send Dean an email asking him to take me to see it this weekend.

Toni Anderson said...

Oh, I REALLY want to see this!

Tee said...

I have REALLY been wanting to see this since I first saw the trailer on YouTube. If it's even a fraction as good as the trailer it definitely be in my top favorite movies.

Thanks for the review! You've made me even more excited to see it. Too bad I have to wait for DVD.

Dixie Belle said...

I'm adding this movie to my list. Hey, Pitt's Jesse James movie is coming out Tuesday. LOL

Jada's Gigi said...

I've heard nothing but good things about this one..however..having had a daughter in this predicament...I don't know how I feel about seeing it and unfortunately I'd prbably have to see it alone as neither my daughter nor my husband want to EVER go there again.

Alan said...

Jada's, it would interesting to see how you liked or disliked how Juno's parents' reacted.

Beth said...

Scott, Eli and the Giants did it! I swear,I should start betting. Aren't you glad the Pats lost? =)

Anonymous said...

Ellen Page is the greatest actress(actor, whatever) of her generation and of the generation before her. I can't help but compare her to a young Jodie Foster but only because there is no other actress remotely of Ellen's caliber. It's a poor comparison because she is light years ahead of Foster at a comparable age. She is wonderful. A revelation.