Smart and Sassy

Juno Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Olivia Thirby, JK Simmons, Allison Janney; Dir: Jason Reitman; Cert: 12A; 1hr 36mThis has already gone down in Hollywood history as the most profitable film of all time.

Andrew Clarke

Juno Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Olivia Thirby, JK Simmons, Allison Janney; Dir: Jason Reitman; Cert: 12A; 1hr 36m

This has already gone down in Hollywood history as the most profitable film of all time. Having cost virtually nothing to make and has raked in a large fortune at the US box office. This smart, small-scale independent movie arrives over here with a huge reputation, glowing reviews and has gathered about it a vast number of award nominations.

The question that needs answering is: “Is this quirky, off-beat comedy really as good as the Americans say it is?” And the answer I am delighted to report is: “Yes it is.”


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Juno is a clever, brilliantly written, beautifully observed tale of teenage pregnancy told in an entertaining and totally captivating way by a cast of virtual unknowns from a script by witty ex-stripper Diablo Cody, who was discovered penning one-liners on late night TV for David Letterman.

I would go as far as to say that Juno will be one of the best-loved films of the year. Director Jason Reitman made his name 18 months ago with the wickedly dark satire Thank You For Smoking and continues this seditious vein in Juno.

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Teenage star Ellen Page commands the film from the first frame to the last with her dazzling personality and knows how use Diablo Cody's razor sharp dialogue to maximum effect. Page's eponymous Juno is not some High School drop-out unable to string a sentence together; Juno is smart, very smart and is loquacious enough to prove it.

She discovers she is pregnant after seducing High School running champ Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). At first she decides she is going to have an abortion but after getting cold feet decides to go through with the birth and then offer the baby up for adoption.

Her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirby) suggests looking at the ads for adoptive parents in the Penny Saver: "They have 'Desperately Seeking Spawn,' right next to the pet ads," she observes.

Juno, named as she explains after the Zeus' one true love, starts to vet a potential yuppie couple Mark and Vanessa Lorring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), to ensure that they will give her baby the best start in life.

As Juno forges links with the prospective parents of her unborn baby, she starts to develop a friendship with Mark and the pair discover a shared love of punk and indie music and slasher horror movies.

The one thing that is immediately apparent as she befriends Mark is that if Juno appears wise beyond her years, then Mark, now in his late 30s, has yet to grow up and still yearns to be a rock'n'roll star.

Although the film belongs entirely to Ellen Page's bravura performance, she receives stirling support from Michael Cera as the bashful Paulie and from JK Simmons and Alison Janney as her amazingly tolerant and understanding Dad and step-mum.

In fact Juno's loving relationship with her family and with Paulie Bleeker is what gives this film its tremendous heart. As Juno herself says as she lets adoptive mum-to-be Jennifer Garner feel her bulging eight-month gone stomach: “Look at me, I'm known in school as The Cautionary Whale.”

This is a film which manages to sidestep all the clichés about underage parents. It resolutely refuses to be a morality tale and as such is a much more powerful, fulfilling watch. It's impossible to recommend this film too highly. Let it charm you.

*****

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