One of the biggest indie film hits in years (um, it cost $7.5M and made $142.5M - I'd say that's a pretty good return on investment), "Juno" also nabbed an Oscar win for writer Diablo Cody, the former exotic dancer who has found herself in great demand thanks to this, her debut script. The picture opens with Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) heading to the local corner store, where a series of pregnancy tests confirm what she didn't want to hear. She was with boyfriend Paulie (Michael Cera) once, and he's floored by the news.
While she considers having an abortion, she decides against it after visiting the clinic. Her parents - Bren (Allison Janney) and Mac (J.K. Simmons) - were hoping for her being expelled or something along those lines, but when she tells them she's pregnant, they respond with a mixture of care and disappointment that seems a little more realistic than how parents have acted in many other teen films prior.
Juno and her father go to meet some potential adoptive parents - Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) - for Juno's child. She desperately wants a child...he...not so much (although he and Juno bond over their love of music.) Still, they seem like a very nice couple and live in a very nice house in a very nice suburb and did I mention they seem nice?
As the film goes on, Juno begins to realize her true feelings for Paulie and, unfortunately, begins to realize that Mark and Vanessa (well, actually just Mark) may not be the perfect couple to raise her child. One of the film's few flaws is that it's predictable. While there's really no question as to how the plot will progress, it's the characters that do a wonderful job carrying the picture. The characters are wonderfully developed, mostly sympathetic and generally very engaging.
Juno's dialogue is hip, clever and witty. Page - in a fantastic performance - delivers the memorable lines in a way that's enjoyably dry and throwaway. The dialogue is maybe a touch too - every single line of Page's dialogue sounds a little too polished - but I liked the fact that every character had their own voice - in a different movie, every character would talk like Juno. Additionally, Page's stellar performance gives the character a lot of depth and emotion below the surface.
Bateman, Garner and Simmons offer fine supporting efforts, as well. Cera has done well with "Arrested Development" (where he starred with Bateman) and "Superbad", but I felt his performance here was a little too awkward and a little too inward. Still, he and Page have a decent chemistry together and the film's ending is incredibly sweet.
Overall, "Juno" does have some issues - it's a little too predictable, but the characters, dialogue and performances are so good that - even though what's going to happen is readily apparent - I still found myself invested in these characters and rooting for them. At about 90 minutes, the picture remains entertaining and doesn't wear out its welcome.
VIDEO: "Juno" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered okay image quality, with average sharpness/detail and some mild-to-moderate artifacting. Colors looked natural and seemed spot-on. Hopefully, the final/retail copy of the DVD will have better image quality than the review copy.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was low-key, with little in the way of surround use (nor would one expect much surround activity, given the material.) The score was nicely spread across the front speakers and dialogue remained clear and crisp.
EXTRAS: An "Inside Look" for the upcoming Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz flick "What Happens In Vegas" is offered as a selection on the main menu and lets just say I hope the picture isn't as annoyingly cutesy as these two are interviewing each other in this promo. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman offer an audio commentary for the flick and the two seem to have a great deal of fun chatting about the movie. We get a good deal of information about the script, little changes, working with the actors, working on location and more. It's an insightful, enthusiastic and occasionally very amusing commentary.
11 deleted scenes are offered with commentary from Cody and Reitman. A bunch of the scenes don't work or aren't needed, but there are a few little character beats and bits of dialogue that I thought were good enough to have made it into the film. A gag reel and gag take are pretty funny, as is a "Cast and Crew Jam" music video. We also get four featurettes - one about the script, one about director Jason Reitman, one about Cody and one about the three main teen characters. Finally, we get 22 minutes of screen tests (mainly Page) and promos for Fox titles.
Final Thoughts :Overall, "Juno" does have some issues - it's a little too predictable, but the characters, dialogue and performances are so good that - even though what's going to happen is readily apparent - I still found myself invested in these characters and rooting for them. Recommended.
The Film B+