Juno (USA; 92 min.)

directed by: Jason Reitman
starring: Ellen Page; Michael Cera; Jennifer Garner; Jason Bateman; J.K. Simmons; Allison Janney

Chris says: "JUNO, Jason Reitman's follow-up to the wildly popular THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, greatly benefits from a solid, honest, hilarious first screenplay from newcomer Diablo Cody, a exquisite comic turn from lead actress Ellen Page, and an affable supporting cast including Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, Michael Cera and Jason Bateman (though the two 'Arrested Development' alums don't share any screen time). I'll be surprised if this isn't the film that finally makes a Page a household name. 4 1/2 cats

JUNO was screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival"

Michael says: "It was with great excitement that our large group of six attended what is surely the festival film generating the most buzz. This is a special film for Chlotrudis as it features in a starring role, an actor who is one of our organization's great finds in the U.S.: Ellen Page. JUNO is Jason Reitman's follow-up to last year's well-received THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, but while I was not as impressed as many with that film, Reitman has found a secret weapon to make JUNO truly sparkle in new, young screenwriter Diablo Cody.

"When sixteen-year-old Juno discovers that she is pregnant after a single night of sex with her sort-of boyfriend Paulie Bleeker, she knows that she is incapable of raising a child. After a fairly quick consideration of offers, she decides to go with an open adoption after a suggestion from her best friend Leah. Juno finds a good-looking, wealthy couple for the prospective parents in the classified ads of the Pennysaver (right next to the exotic pets section). Her parents are disappointed but supportive, but her relationship with Bleeker gets a little shaky. As the seasons pass and Juno grows more and more pregnant, she learns that there are some people who might disappoint her in life, but there are many who will not let her down.

"There are so many things right with JUNO, including the cast (in addition to Page we have Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, and J.K. Simmons) and some deft directorial work, but JUNO succeeds or fails on its screenplay. Fortunately, somebody noticed Diablo Cody's blog and suggested to her that she write a screenplay. After a career that included working in an ad agency, as a stripper and as a phone sex operator, Cody tried her hand at screenwriting. With JUNO she has created the original and extremely funny voice of a teen-aged girl living in the modern world. She does a terrific job handling the many supporting roles as well, making each one pop in their respective scenes.

"The other not-so secret weapon of JUNO is certainly the talented Ellen Page, who after putting in some stellar work in lesser-seen intense dramas (HARD CANDY; AN MERICAN CRIME) decided she needed to try her hand at comedy. Fortunately for her she found JUNO, a comedy that's loaded with laughs and smarts. 4 1/2 cats

JUNO was screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival"

Bruce says: "**Spoilers**

""Told in four chapters, one for each season, JUNO opens with a commentary about a Lazyboy that has been put out for a yard sale in the fall. Juno (Ellen Page) lets the audience know that this is where her child (technically still a fetus) was conceived. We follow her to the drugstore where she buys another instant pregnancy test just in case her last one was a false positive. The results are remarkably consistent.

"Juno lives with her father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney). She doesn’t let them in on her secret until she develops a plan. They know something is up but are hoping Juno has been expelled from school or has a drug problem – anything but getting knocked up. Juno’s friend Leah helps search for ads placed by people who want to adopt. Bingo. On paper Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring look perfect. When Juno and her parents visit the Lorings’ McMansion Juno is impressed with how much Vanessa wants a child. The Lorings certainly are rich enough and nice enough. An agreement is reached. Juno also has to break the news to the father of the child (Michael Sera) who is a close friend.

"Over the winter Juno gets bigger and bigger. She has periodic checkups and ultrasound the same as all expectant mothers do. Juno also begins to make impromptu calls on the Lorings. Usually it is just Mark who is home. They discover they have similar tastes in music and horror films in spite of their age gap.

"In spring, things begin to fall apart. The ugly truth about the Lorings – they are really not a happy couple after all – begins to emerge. As her delivery day rapidly approaches Juno is torn about what to do with the baby since her 'sure thing' with the Lorings appears not even likely. By summer, the baby arrives and Juno reflects on her lessons learned, particularly those way beyond her maturity level.

"JUNO is an absurdly amusing film. At the core of its success is a sensational performance by Ellen Page who is backed up by a strong supporting cast. Page’s wry sense of humor shines through into her finely drawn character. The script by Diablo Cody is first rate. The theme of the film is alienation. When the film begins, Juno is already a misfit; pregnancy elevates her to caricature status in the misfit department. Not fitting in is a state of mind to a certain degree. By the end of the film Juno has emerged from her experience much wiser, more adaptable and more appreciative of those who have supported her throughout her ordeal. They, too, see her in a different light. 4.5 cats

"JUNO screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival"

Jay says: "There are moments in JUNO, especially early on, when I worried about its title character being one of THOSE teenagers. You know the type - the self-aware and self-referential ones who talk like thirty-year-old screenwriters who went to private schools and are nostalgic for the John Hughes movies of their youth rather than any actual memory of growing up in a small town.

"Fortunately, the cast and crew generally manage to avoid those traps. Yes, writer Diablo Cody writes Juno as ostentatiously quirky at times - an early bit where she sets an easy chair up on her would-be-boyfriend's lawn seems like an awful lot of effort for little payoff. Fortunately, Juno is played by Ellen Page, who genuinely looks sixteen and grasps that Juno is far more child than adult. She's a clever and witty kid, but what she thinks is clever is often just in bad taste. Despite all the sarcasm and music snobbery, she's not mean; she's generally trying to do the right thing. She's also hilarious. Of all the things Page does, perhaps the most valuable is letting what are often precisely chosen words come spilling out of her mouth without making Juno seem particularly bright.

"The bright girls, after all, generally don't wind up pregnant at the age of sixteen. There's no question that the father is Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), and initially there's no doubt that Juno's going to have an abortion. Something that the one teenage protester there says gets under her skin, though, so she tells her father (J.K. Simmons), stepmother (Allison Janney), and best friend (Olivia Thirlby), that she's going to carry it to term. She's even managed to find a couple to adopt the kid - sure, Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner) seems kind of uptight, but her husband Mark (Jason Bateman) seems cool.

"Ellen Page is terrific, and she has to be - she's in every scene, with maybe one or two exceptions. She doesn't have to carry the whole thing herself, though - she gets a lot of help from the supporting cast. J.K. Simmons gives Mac MacGuff a dry delivery that's similar to Page's as Juno, though a little resigned and more mature; Allison Janney is humorously more frantic as Bren. Olivia Thirlby and Michael Cera are a ton of fun as Juno's friends. Cera does charmingly dorky better than any young actor out there, and he's as good as ever as Paulie; Thirlby's Leah is a bundle of enthusiastic eccentricity. Compared to them, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman look almost muted, though they wind up two of the more fleshed-out and interesting characters.

"Just because how they relate to Juno provides much of the film's dramatic weight doesn't mean they're not funny, though. JUNO doesn't have any characters who aren't, at one point or another, funny - even people at the school who just stand there, talking to someone else while Juno looks at them, tend to make for funny visuals. This seems like an obvious thing, but it's surprising how many comedies don't realize that every character has to pull his own weight in terms of making the audience laugh, or else they're just clutter. "Juno" the film is remarkably free of clutter, both as a comedy and as a story about Juno MacGuff: Everyone involved is funny, and there's very little in the story to distract us from Juno's tentative steps toward adulthood.

"Both writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman are still a little rough at times - their use of music is a bit heavy-handed, for instance, though not as much as the chair motif in Juno's narration. They do manage the potentially awkward turn the story makes down the home stretch without missing a beat, and Reitman has a knack for finding good images. He hasn't yet put all his tendency toward smugness behind him, but JUNO suffers from that much less than THANK YOU FOR SMOKING did.

"And, to be fair, JUNO might just be 'pretty good' if it were a smoother, more polished work. It's a fine line between the title character being well-intentioned with a lot of growing up to do and her being stupid and unlikeable, even with Ellen Page's great performance It's the ability to stay on the charming side of that line that makes JUNO one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year. 4.5 cats"