Saturday, April 19, 2008

Juno: Grade A

Juno (2007)
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons; Director Jason Reitman.

Ellen Page is a smart-talking 16 year old who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby for adoption. Her shy, skinny boyfriend (Cera) takes no responsibility. Her working class parents treat the situation calmly and help her through. She has the baby and gives it up, and everything is fine, as if nothing had happened. The banality of the story and two-dimensionality of the characters are the weakest parts of the movie. However, the story does separate teenage pregnancy from reflex moralizing, and demonstrates that it is not necessarily a life-wrecking tragedy. Page is mesmerizing, as she was in 2005’s Hard Candy. Her loquacious, witty, precocious character is similar here, a not very believable writer’s contrivance. How does a high school student who never even touches a book manage to quote philosophy, religion, classical music, foreign languages, history, and much else in her incessant stream of sarcastic and ironic witticisms? How does she remain ironic and emotionally detached from her pregnancy? None of the characters in this movie is well-rounded, but the occasionally insightful, hip teen dialog, along with great acting, keep you engaged. Directing is impeccable, even inspired in places. Sets, props, and costumes are very well conceived. Editing is perfect. The music is not for my generation but was inoffensive. Except for shallow characterizations and a weak story line, this is an exceptionally well made movie.

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