Thursday, January 31, 2008


Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner
Director: Jason Reitman
Runtime: 96 min.
Rating: ****
Genre: Comedy, Romance

This you can take my word for – the best performance of this year is a three-way race between Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Daniel-Day Lewis (There Will be Blood) and a twenty-year old who, believe you me, will be spoken to of in the same breath as the legend above, whenever it is her time comes. That would be Ellen Page, and in her and her family – the MacGuffs – we have probably the most endearing folks since the Hoovers came by visiting last year in that yellow Volkswagen T2 Microbus. That bunch was quirky; these guys here are the coolest parents cinematically.
Screenwriter Diablo Cody is probably the most forthright person you might ever come across in real life, every which way, and if you doubt that you might want to visit Sixteen-year old Juno (Page), or Junebug as her father lovingly calls her, might be just how Cody looks at herself – as an open book ready to LIVE life as she deems it should. She believes in experimenting, whatever her purview allows, and she wouldn’t blink an eye for what the world thinks of it. I kind of like that, that free-spirit, and when Juno ends up experimenting sex with her best friend Patrick (Cera), the result is the most unexpected early-age pregnancy. The kind of pregnancy the elicits ‘Phuket, Thailand’ for a reaction out of fellow teenagers. For a sixteen year old, I guess that is as far any results of any sort of experiments could lead to. She instinctively turns up at an abortion centre, though not before meeting a fellow classmate demonstrating her Catholic belief along the way. The visit affects her, and she again, instinctively decides to give birth to the baby, and starts looking for parents willing to adopt in the alternative press.
You might wonder that there’s nothing remotely revolutionary in the plot. You know what, you’re actually correct. This year has witnessed quite a lot of titles dealing with pregnancy, both serious and comedy – Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, the Cannes festival winner 4 Months, 3 weeks and 2 Days and that charming indy Waitress. The wonder here is the way this one rises above so distinctly, and elevates itself in layers above the quite mundane subject. The first layer is Cody’s script laced with one-liners Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers would be proud of. On paper, the characters that are supposed to deliver these lines have fantastical intelligence in them, so much so that there would have been fear of them losing their believability. In come the casting members and God bless them for that. The actors here are so good they elevate that script, those wisecracks, those whacky one-liners beyond the realms of reality into those territories that exist near to our hearts. Page is a wonder of nature. She is a brave girl, agreed and any movie character supposed to give birth without being married is assumed to be that. What she lends to the character is confidence, assurance in her bravery, and the kind of free-spirit you would yourself want to hold to. Around her the cast revolve, everyone intelligent and likable in their own sweet ways. Juno And in Mac (Simmons) and Brenda (Allison Janney), Juno has the most lovable, sweet and coolest set of parents I have ever seen anyone have in cinema. That includes Raj’s father in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Janney gets to deliver a hilarious one-liner at the end, and the way she delivers it has ensured that it will walk straight into the next edition of Quotable Quotes. No, real life people do not talk like this, and if people in films talked like them I’m sure half of the world wouldn’t have much of a reason to go to the movies. With most movies laced with cool sounding one-liners they actually end up being the point. But here, these actors and especially Page amazingly convey how it is not just about putting across that funny line, but the emotion lingering beneath those lines. We do not merely laugh out of hilarity but out of their likeability. There is a reason why most people prefer watching sitcoms, and why they feel that extra bit coming out of their hearts when they hear I’ll be there for you coming out of their sets. These bunch of actors create that atmosphere of natural affability around their intelligence, and by the time you’re done with them, you would desperately want to know how these guys have turned out in their lives.
And around them, director Jason Reitman wraps the crust, carefully, affectionately building on what is a rather whacky script into what’s probably the most entertaining film of this year. He created that brainy satire in Thank You For Smoking last year, and with this one here, I can safely assume he’s director right up there with the very best in the business, and I’m not just talking of comedy. Look, this isn’t a great film, but neither does it have aspirations to be great. It is like that charming indy counterpart Waitress and between the two, I’ll hold Waitress dearer to my heart, but that is a different matter for a different review coming out shortly. But this, I’ll admit is a marginally better film. When you’re home after a long hectic day has beaten down on you, and you crave for something that loves you, and respects you and stands up, stretches its arm to be hugged and loved in return, this is the film you’ve been looking for. You could argue tons about its choices, but that again isn’t the point in the first place. It is as close you’ll ever get this year to being intelligently entertained. What’s more, it is as close a film will ever get to being the audience’s representative at the awards this year. And believe you me, the audiences don’t stand a chance.


Anonymous said...

Beg to differ.

My review in simple words.

Stupid Stupid movie. Avoid at any cost. Really really overhyped. Half cooked, pretentious not at all funny. Yawn Yawn.

Satish, I can’t understand how you can compare this with Little Miss Sunshine.


Anonymous said...

“When you’re home after a long hectic day has beaten down on you, and you crave for something that loves you, and respects you and stands up, stretches its arm to be hugged and loved in return, this is the film you’ve been looking for.”

So true J


patrick said...

i assumed Juno was directed by the same guy that directed Knocked Up because it's about an unexpected pregnancy, and Michael Cera stars as Juno's boyfriend (he was one of the goofy kids from Superbad, a close relative of Knocked Up), but it turns out this is not the case