Friday, December 28, 2007

Girl Power

As of right now, Juno is my favorite film of the year. This decision is pending, since I still have yet to see There Will Be Blood. But nothing could touch my heart as deeply as this little-film-that-could. It's such a rare, beautiful, quirky film. It's gotten a lot of comparisons to Little Miss Sunshine in its feel-goodiness, but I prefer Juno. The film is directed by Jason Reitman, but the real voice of Juno is first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody. She writes in a way that's so fresh and honest. I have never heard people talk this way in a film, and yet it seems so familiar to me.

The film is about Juno MacGuff, played by Ellen Page. She gets impregnated by Paulie Bleeker (the incomparable Michael Cera - it's been a great year for him), and she has to deal with it. And she deals with it very realistically. Her father and step-mother (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney) aren't one-dimensional monsters. They're caring and sympathetic and real. They don't cast her out with stones. They tell her they love her and decide to help her. How novel. It's a refreshing portrayal of parents.

Juno plans to have the baby and give it up for adoption to rich yuppies Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). Nothing happens like you expect it to, and it's a total surprise up until the end. This is a feel-good film with a brain. It never feels corny. It's also one of the greatest romantic comedies ever. I think Preston Sturges would love this film. You're surprised by what happens, but when it does, it seems to make perfect sense. That's great screenwriting. Diablo Cody is going places. It's so awesome to have such an intelligent, insightful female voice out there.

The music is infectious. I can't stop listening to the soundtrack. Michael Cera and Ellen Page do a duet, and it's got to be one of the most romantic things ever. The direction is impeccable - I don't mean to dismiss Jason Reitman. The acting is some of the best I've ever seen. Jennifer Garner is luminous and heartbreaking. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney make me want to BE their daughter. Jason Bateman thankfully gets to show his talent after lackluster, post-Arrested Development roles. And Michael Cera does awkward like nobody's business. But here, it's different. It's not the same kind of awkward as Superbad. There's a real vulnerability to his character. He's amazing. I think I fell a little bit in love with him watching this film, as I'm sure every guy does with Ellen Page.

Ellen Page is a miracle. Her comic timing is extraordinary. But she's something really special. I don't know if I've ever empathized with a character more, and it's because of Ellen Page (and Cody's writing, of course). Juno's witty, intelligent, and confused about her place in life. She's tough on the outside and totally vulnerable and aching for love on the inside. And aren't we all? She deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance, and I think she might get one. She's going to be a huge star.

I bawled my eyes out for about the last half hour of this film and then for most of the way home. I was just touched so much by its simple, pure beauty. I think I AM Juno in many ways, and it was life-altering to spend an hour and a half with a character I could totally relate to and understand. For that and for bringing real women to the screen, I thank Ellen Page and Diablo Cody.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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