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Smartass Vs. Smart: Juno December 26, 2007

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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This one started out annoying me, with far too much indy-film formula hitting me over the head, and overwritten hip language dialogue from wall to wall during its first twenty minutes or so, but once the story developed and the characters developed, Juno grew on me, and basically won me over.

The story of a cynical smartass of a girl (Ellen Page, doing a great job) who gets preggo by Bleeker, a dweeb would-be boyfriend (a charmingly schlemiel-y Michael Cera) gets far more interesting once her father (a wonderful JK Simmons) and stepmom (Allison Janney, also good here) are portrayed as caring and intelligent when dealing with her situation, as opposed to giving them moments drawn from formula dealing with this subject matter. The character of the dad especially rings true in that he’s someone who could conceivably raise a daughter with the personality of Juno and also know his daughter well. While Juno deals with her disappointment with the adult world’s hypocrisies with endless (though often very funny) gallows humor, she has also used this posture as a way to separate herself from her own emotions and trust in herself to be a different sort of adult, and a more successful one if she ever gets there. Her journey towards being honest with herself as far as her feelings for Bleeker pretty much becomes the center of the story, with that journey comprised of her (and our) changing perspectives towards the upmarket yuppie couple (Jason Bateman & Jennifer Garner) who arrange to adopt Juno’s baby.

I thought that a logical problem with the premise of the movie was that a girl as smart as Juno is portrayed would not be dumb enough to get preggers via being the aggressor in first-time sex with a passive but emotionally-safe dork, but if the point of the film was that she was graduating from clever to smart via being educated by her (literal) fuck-up, then I guess it works. While not the ringing endorsement of humankind that my last indy foray Lars & The Real Girl was, this little film manages to celebrate life and to celebrate it not only despite its insanities but by basking in those insanities. So, thumbs up!

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