Oscar buzz for Juno

MovieREVIEW

Juno

Directed by Jason Reitman

Written by Diablo Cody

Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007

96 min., PG-13



“Juno,” directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody, along with the casting, allows the characters to breathe real life into this movie set in trite and cute Minnesota.

In the middle of the movie (bear with me), Juno (Ellen Page), flustered, does something that is ethically questionable in her beat-up family van. She goes to see Mark (Jason Bateman). She is guessing that Vanessa (Jennifer Garner), Mark’s wife, is not at home. We watch Juno put on a very red lipstick. She is sixteen, still in high school, and about 12 weeks pregnant. She has already rejected an abortion.

Mark and Vanessa are a perfectly coiffed, yuppie couple who live in the biggest house in their gated community and plan to adopt Juno’s baby. At their first meeting with Mark and Vanessa, Juno and her Dad, Mac, (J.K. Simmons) feel the couple out. Economic and class differences are apparent between the two families. The couple’s lawyer is efficient and attired, ready to dot all the “i’s” for the adoption. Vanessa is nervous, knowing that a birth itself can convince a mother to keep her child. Meanwhile Juno and Mark bond over their similar taste in music and a Les Paul guitar.

Mark writes commercial jingles, and when she comes over, Juno and Mark sing a soap ad commercial together. Juno brings some music for Mark. Mark puts on a tape, a Carpenter’s song done in a punk format. They begin to slow dance.

Mark says, “Is there something between us?” Yes, a large, impregnated stomach and a metaphor for something else?

Mark then tells her he’s not ready to be a father and is going to move out. Vanessa walks in and asks, “What is going on here?” Both women are stunned. Mark seems not quite ready to put down his guitar and infantile desire to be a rock star. Juno leaves and freaks out over this new dilemma.

Part of the problem is that she has bought into the materialism of yuppie heaven while she verbally spars about the couple’s extreme consumerism. The baby’s secure future seems to be disintegrating.

Juno’s family – those that keep her secure – are her dad Mac, a retired career soldier who now works in heating and air-conditioning, his wife, Bren (Alison Janney, from the West Wing), and their five-year-old. Mac seems to be channeling a human and bubbling version of Hulk Hogan on a small scale. Bren is a nail technician and an obsessing dog lover who embroiders campy dog portraits. She is completely there to defend, criticize, and care for Juno. Juno’s mom left for a New Age escape somewhere but sends Juno a cactus once a year.

Paulie (Michael Cera) is the father of the baby. We see him mostly in his maroon, high school track sweatshirt and gold nylon gym shorts, which reveal his long, skinny legs. He is addicted to orange Tic Tacs. His hair makes him a second cousin to the movie character Napoleon Dynamite. He is inquisitive and droll at the same time. His character is set up almost to make us dislike him, but he wins us over. He’s the perfect antidote for Juno’s center-stage spunky, sarcastic and lively performance. Juno is more engaging than you could expect for someone her age who’s expecting.

She is so accessible that she could win the Oscar for best actress if the Academy can get over its issues about teen pregnancy, abortion and unorthodox families. With Roe v. Wade threatened, Reitman’s film takes on a Roberts-led Supreme Court!

Just under the cute tenderness of Juno, we’re watching a movie about a woman’s right to decide, even if she’s sixteen, and the right to trust our children and the decisions they make.