Juno has a surreal team behind it, being written by ex-stripper Diablo Cody, directed by Jason Reitman- son of Ivan, he of Ghostbusters fame- and starring an actress best known for playing a 14 year-old paedophile-hunter. And it is this eccentric band that we have to thank for delivering (if you’ll pardon the clichés) the most charming and heart-warming film of the year.
The story sees Ellen Page’s Juno MacGuff fall pregnant, and opt to give the baby up for adoption to trendy yuppie couple Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, aided along the way by her gruff father, promiscuous best friend and the sprog’s increasingly bemused father.
From the off, Juno is already one of the strangest, most quote-worthy films of the year thanks to Cody’s wonderfully dry script, which succeeds in never feeling self-assuredly odd, rather coming across as breezy and laconic (a newspaper adoption ad reads “Desperately Seeking Spawn”). If the film fails to win the Best Screenplay Oscar then I’m afraid to say there is no God. Reitman’s direction, meanwhile, is relaxed and unobtrusive, perfectly fitting for the laid-back world Cody has constructed.
Page is simply marvellous, her sardonically self-deprecating expectant mother (“they call me the cautionary whale”) the throbbing heart of the film. Insightful, witty and droll, her Oscar nomination may just appear to be the Academy trying to be “hip” but she thoroughly deserves it. Likewise, Jason Bateman is wonderful as husband to an unrecognisable (and really very good) Jennifer Garner, whose initially Stepford-esque character becomes surprisingly fleshed-out as the story progresses. The only weak link in the cast is Michael Cera, whose wimpy father to Juno’s baby feels oddly out of place with the film’s sarcastically streetwise feel.
In short, this is one of the sweetest, sharpest films of the year. Satisfyingly “indie” in feel without ever looking smug, Juno is a delicious piece of storytelling bolstered by a fine cast, with Page in particular being one actress to watch.