‘Juno’ at 15 – Review

June (2007)
Director: Jason Reitmann
Screenwriter: Diablo Cody
Cast: Elliot Page, Michael Cera, JK Simmons, Allison Janney, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Olivia Thirlby.

What June Reaching the ripe age of fifteen, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit the coming-of-age teen drama. With so many of the hackneyed tropes of the genre, this film is an indie film fan’s winning bingo card. From the animated title sequence to the gangly teenagers who are incredibly smart and more groomed than any of the adults they interact with, or the constant nods to painfully great bands, a year divided into seasons and dealing with serious topics using sarcasm and humor. It’s a full house!

The opener sees Juno (Elliot Page) swallowing a bottle of Sunny D so big it has its own gravitational pull. With the line ‘so what’s the prognosis, Fertile Myrtle? Less or more? the scene is set. Juno is pregnant, ‘forshizz up the spout’. And she makes it very clear that she’s going to face this alone…or so she thinks she is. Although her desperation is clearly shown when she makes a rope out of candy before entering her chaotic and loving home to tell her parents the big news about her.

From the synopsis and poster (and even the first paragraph of this review), you’ll be forgiven for being wrong about that. June it’s a movie about teen pregnancy, and while it’s a pretty hefty motif dressed in Bretton stripes, it’s not where the real story is.

Obviously, the people in Juno’s life are shocked, but there really isn’t much judgment on her, not from those who matter anyway. This is not a trouble movie. By removing any real external conflict surrounding the pregnancy, Cody’s script allows Juno’s internal conflict to drive the story forward. So yes, there is a pregnancy, but this movie is about growing up too fast, acceptance, and realizing that adults have no idea what they’re doing either. But at its core, Juno is a love story.

Crush is covered by Leah (Olivia Thirlby), the best friend everyone needs: a girl obsessed with her math teacher and cheerleader, but who holds Juno’s hand every step of the way. And romantic love? Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), who is a gem, serves it up in spades. When he sheepishly asks ‘what should we do?’ after receiving the news from Juno, it is clear that he cares for her and wants to share the responsibility for what happened. The two are perfect for each other. For some, no grand romantic gesture will top the stereo in the air, the car flying into the clouds, the library in the enchanted castle. But it’s hard to find a sweeter moment in any movie than Paulie hugging a hormonal and tearful Juno as she processes everything that’s happened, her sneakers muddy from rushing to the hospital. All the comfort, without expectations. Handsome.

While JK Simmons gives an excellent comedic performance as Juno’s father, it’s really all about the mothers. Juno herself, a mother only in biological terms, is the embodiment of the anger, worry, and self-doubt that comes with parenthood (and being a teenager). Ella’s stepmother Bren, played by the amazing Allison Janney, is funny and fierce and loves Juno for who she is – her takedown of the ultrasound technician is one of the highlights of the film. She is a breath of fresh air between the heartbreak and the hormones. Jennifer Garner’s Vanessa, ‘in desperate search of spawn’, is slightly one-dimensional in her obsessive pursuit of motherhood and perfection. She’s a stark contrast to Jason Bateman, who is undeniably the villain of the piece as Mark Loring, Vanessa’s reluctant husband. Ironically, he’s stuck in arrested development as he reminisces about his ’90s band and his life in Chicago. He doesn’t want a woman to push him around or expect anything from him. Juno idolizes him because she is so different from all the other adults in his life, and he is delighted by this adulation. Mark’s disregard for boundaries is a dangerous moment in an otherwise wholesome film.

June he’s funny, smart, and wholesome without being cloying. The larger than life characters aren’t like real people, not really, they’re amplified versions of real people. And that’s what makes the movie great, these borderline unbelievable characters tackling a difficult situation and everyone emerges triumphant at the end except Mark, but no one cares about him.

Well received by the public and critics, June went down in the record books. He has aged well and is still fun. The iconic hamburger phone, gold track shorts, and protruding striped nub are iconic and feel as fresh as they did when they came out kicking and screaming in 2007.

Score: 22/24

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Written by Martha Lane


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