The buzz on this one going in was so strong that I was half expecting a bit of a letdown. And to tell the truth, it did not capture me from the very first moments. I’ve been reading some of the message boards at the IMDb and Metacritic, and the main objection I’m seeing is that the two teenage girls were way too sophisticated in their dialogue. I felt that, a little, at first. But once it got rolling I forgot all about that and just settled into being delighted at Ellen Page’s performance. I also noticed something at Metacritic: The huge majority of posters who blasted the movie with a 0, a 1, or a 2, were male. Fans were of both sexes, but there seems to be a certain kind of male who is threatened by this girl, Juno, and also by the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, and they quite often bring up the fact that she used to be a stripper. For some reason, they really hate her for that. Is it for being a stripper in the first place, or for daring to make it in another business? I’m not sure. But they practically froth at the mouth when they mention her. I have the feeling these guys would feel the same about Hillary Clinton.
Enough of that. The movie surprised me several times. These days, if you follow the business at all, you usually know how a movie will turn out, and I knew about this one, but I believe that if I hadn’t known that she would stick to her guns concerning the adoption of her baby, I would have been on the edge of my seat wondering if she’d “chicken out” at the last moment and condemn herself to a youth spent changing diapers and flipping burgers. That’s what you’d expect in a film like this, right? Abortion seems to be right out in American films (though I’m very interested in seeing 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, a Romanian film which deals with it). Sweet little girl like Juno, she’ll see the baby, she’ll go awwwwwwwwww!!!!, she’ll tell the adoptive parents to go fuck themselves. But she doesn’t, and there is the real source of the Juno-hatred, I believe. It’s funny, but not funny-ha-ha. I mean, everybody endorses adoption, but they get all queasy at the idea of a girl giving up her baby. What is wrong with her? Let childless couples just go to China, for chrissake. They got plenty of babies over there.
Aside from the simply stunning performance by Page, all the parts are wonderfully written, cast, and acted. They are not quite what you would expect them to be, and the plot doesn’t go where you expect it to go. Jennifer Garner made me feel the pain of a woman who feels she was born to be a mother … and can’t have children. Allison Janney turns in another fine supporting performance. Michael Cera’s dopey face and awkwardness make up for Juno’s eloquence. Olivia Thirlby is great as the best friend, who starts most sentences with “Dude …” And once more J.K. Simmons impresses me as one of the most solid character actors in the business. He was always good as the psychologist on “Law & Order,” and I understand he was unspeakably brutal and slimy in “Oz,” which we’ve never seen. It’s hard to imagine, he seems such a decent sort in the parts I’ve seen him in, but I’m sure he could pull it off. This movie is not going to knock the un-nominated Sweeney Todd off the first-place spot in my personal best-of-the-year, but it certainly deserves all the Oscar nominations it got.
(Personal plea to Ellen Page: Dude, stop biting your nails! It causes me physical pain to see fingertips as mutilated as yours are.)