Sunday, June 23, 2013

Juno (2007)

Director: Jason Reitman                                 Writer: Diablo Cody
Film Score: Mateo Messina                            Cinematography: Eric Steelberg
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman

On the cover of the DVD for this film is a blurb by Roger Ebert saying that this was the best film of the year. Sorry, Rog, but I don’t think so. In a year that saw films like Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, and even comedies like Ocean’s Thirteen and Music and Lyrics, I wouldn’t even put it in the top ten. Juno is a mildly amusing comedy that seems more like a TV show than a movie. In fact other than the pregnancy, which is a finite event, the characters seem tailor made for a network sit-com. It even has its own running—literally--gag, high school runners going through the neighborhood or past the school every fifteen minutes in the film.

Ellen Page plays a sixteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant when she sleeps with her best friend at school, Michael Cera. She agonizes for a few days, initially deciding to get an abortion, but something about the clinic turns her off and she can’t go through with it. Eventually she comes clean with her dad, J.K. Simmons, and step-mom, Allison Janney, because she needs to give the baby up for adoption. Looking through the Penny Saver she comes across an ad from Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, the perfect suburban couple to raise the child. She even begins to bond with Bateman over music and films and knows she’s made the perfect choice . . . until he drops a bombshell that sends her into an emotional tailspin.

Diablo Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay, but I think history has shown that she probably wasn’t the best choice. Tony Gilroy, who wrote Michael Clayton has had continuing success in films while Cody, on the other hand, has written a couple of dismal screenplays and a TV series since. There are some funny lines, but overall the script is kind of predictable and gives the impression that we’ve seen all this before. Once the shock of seeing the tiny Page with her huge belly wears off, there’s little left to be amusing. At the same time, director Jason Reitman hasn’t really done anything since that approaches the popularity of Juno, and so I’m not sure what else to say. Oh, I hated the soundtrack, too. The whole thing is like watching a good TV movie: it has some laughs but is ultimately forgettable.

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