It's an ironic coincidence that Juno
- a film about a sixteen-year-old who faces an unplanned pregnancy - was released around the same time that sixteen-year-old Jamie-Lynn Spears announced her own impending motherhood. Together, the two events ratcheted up the attention being paid to the issue of teen pregnancy.
Juno Will Steal Your Heart
Petite, off-beat and wisecracking Juno (Ellen Page) is the last girl you'd think would find herself in a family way. Even Juno's dad is stunned to hear that the father is a shy and quiet kid with the nerdy name of Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). The epitome of geek in his burgundy track team shirt and yellow shorts, wrist and sweat bands, Paulie and Juno look barely old enough to see PG-13 films, let alone reproduce.
Because they're so obviously atypical, the wickedly sharp dialogue that erupts from Juno and her friends in rapid-fire style is brilliant and believable.
All About Character
And in this quietly off-kilter world, the oddballs own the film's golden moments. Whether it's Juno's best friend Leah firing off some of the funniest dialogue, or her classmate Su-Chin who passively chants and waves a pro-life sign outside the abortion clinic Juno visits, the teenage characters ring true.
Instead of terminating her pregnancy, Juno and Leah scan the pennysaver ads and find Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), living the good life in a McMansion and ready to adopt the minute Juno goes into labor.
Audrey Hepburn Crossed With Tina Fey
Every actor does notable work in this film. This includes Juno's working class father (Law & Order's
J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (The West Wing's
Allison Janney doing some of her best comedic work) to Garner and Batemen who transition from plastic to plausible as the adoptive parents-to-be with unspoken issues of their own. And the surprisingly upbeat way in which everybody takes Juno's pregnancy in stride makes for an unexpectedly sweet and uplifting film, even when things begin to unravel.
The most perfect performance comes from the actress playing the title character. A cross between Audrey Hepburn and Tina Fey, Ellen Page makes Juno the most refreshing and honest high school student in recent memory. In just under 90 minutes she puts Lindsay Lohan and her crowd to shame.
As for the dialogue - think TV's The Gilmore Girls with an edge and even more attitude.
Intelligent, Heartfelt and Honest
appears to be drawing a mixed audience of teenage girls, guys, and adults. Because of the presence of Superbad's
Michael Cera, the film may disappoint teens expecting to see a raunchy comedy. This movie is the exact opposite - an intelligent, heartfelt, honest, straightforward story.
It will also subtly drive home one simple fact - if you are sexually active and engage in intercourse, even if it's just once, you can become pregnant; and the consequences require strength, integrity, and personal responsibility.
Juno represents one of the 750,000 teen girls age 15-19 who will become pregnant this year. Maybe if more teens and more parents see this movie and talk about the issue, their outcomes will be as positive as Juno's.