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.