The Plot: When a modern high school girl named Juno (Ellen Page) discovers that she is pregnant after having sex for the first time, she can't bring herself to have an abortion, but also isn't ready to be a mother. Instead, she opts to give the baby to a couple named Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). The film follows the events of the next nine months as Juno experiences the highs and lows of her pregnancy and looks toward her future.
The Review: My initial interest in Juno came from the involvement of both Jason Bateman and Michael Cera in the project. I've been following the careers of both actors since I caught up with the TV show Arrested Development on DVD and was anticipating the reunion of these two comedic geniuses. Unfortunately they didn't have any scenes together, but both Cera and Bateman brought their A games to this film. In fact, every single actor and actress in Juno was exceptional.
Jennifer Garner delivered a performance which actually impressed me for the first time in her career. It's as though she had some sort of real life connection to the role of the woman desperate to be a mother, but unable to have a child of her own. I've never seen her so convincing before. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney were wonderful as Juno's parents. Both were incredibly likable while maintaining a very genuine feeling to their characters. Michael Cera was funny (seemingly without trying) in several scenes, but his ability to pull of the heavy dramatic moments in this film are what really stood out to me about his performance. He's officially proven to me that he can fit into genres other than comedy. Jason Bateman pulled off a primarily serious role in Juno much like Michael Cera, and managed to impress me as well with his range. Finally there is Ellen Page as the title character. Aside from her brief stint as Kitty Pride in X-Men: The Last Stand, Juno was my first time seeing Ellen Page in action. She did a fine job of carrying the film and was very believable as a high school girl dealing with such a heavy situation. The only real problems I had with her performance were some of the lines she had to deliver, but that's all due to the writing. Honestly, the entire primary cast was phenomenal.
Juno is the follow-up effort from director (and son of Ivan Reitman) Jason Reitman, who previously impressed me with his film Thank You For Smoking. The direction of the film was on par with the excellent acting, as was the indie music-laden score. The only real problems I had with Juno are due to the writing. For most of the film the dialogue is believable yet witty, however the first few scenes had me worried that I was in for an hour and a half of catch phrases. The conversation between Juno and the convenience store clerk at the beginning of the movie led me to believe that they were best friends as they bantered back and forth about the extremely personal subject of teen pregnancy, but the clerk never again appears in the film. This scene's dialogue felt very unnatural. Very similar to that instance, in the scene in which Juno first tells her best friend that she is pregnant over the phone, the fake, overly-hip dialogue was thick enough to walk on. Past these few moments the dialogue was much easier to stomach. The only other thing that bugged me about Juno was the way that the title character acted mature well beyond her age range at some points. These instances were essentially countered by a few scenes which drew Juno back into her place as a high school student, but some line deliveries felt really forced coming out of the mouth of a supposed sixteen year old.
The Verdict: The comedy and drama in Juno meshed together well, the story was overall believable and relatable for anyone who has ever endured a hardship, and there are several laughs for good measure. The quality of the acting in this film alone is reason enough to see it, but there's certainly more to it than that for (I assume) just about any audience.