Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.
Monday, 14 March 2011
Sixteen-year-old teen with attitude Juno (Ellen Page) discovers she is pregnant, and, unwilling to raise the child looks into letting married couple Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) adopt the baby, as well as looking into getting back with Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), the baby's father, whose heart she has already broken once.
Often referred to as a comedy, this is not a comedy about teenage pregnancy (if that's even possible), but a comedy-drama about teenage pregnancy. Like a well scripted comedy-drama should, Diablo Cody's wonderful screenplay gets the perfect balance between comedy and drama, with both hilarious and moving results.
The comedy all comes from the dialogue, no question about it. Unlike almost all comedy films, which are churned out almost non-stop by Hollywood, the dialogue is witty and sophisticated, not attempting to use cheap attempts at farcical dialogue. Like Little Miss Sunshine (2006) we are talking about dialogue which is funny because it is just so frank and believable. When Juno's father (J.K. Simmons) learns she is pregnant he says he'll "punch him [Paulie Bleeker] right in the weiner", a moment made so funny just because it is such a natural, frank comment which most fathers would make, and also because it is delivered so perfectly by Simmons; and when Juno goes into labour her stepmum (Allison Janney) says it takes so long because "doctors like making people suffer", which is funny because that is what most mothers think when in labour (I've heard), yet only in a film like Juno would a mother actually say it so casually.
The drama comes from the fairly adult themes within the screenplay, which reflects serious issues in both domestic life and society as a whole. Teenage pregnancy/unwanted pregnancy rates have been getting higher and higher since the start of the century, and society looks at it as quite a serious issue, so it is always a tough issue to tackle, especially in a film.
Juno, however, tackles it perfectly. We see the initial unacceptance of the mother, which leads on later to shock at the truth; the father's anger at the father; the father's fear at the prospect of fatherhood. These are all emotions that different people involved feel when they are caught up in the issue, and the emotions are portrayed so beautifully by Page, Simmons and Cera.
The issue that affects domestic life - obviously any pregnancy can affect a domestic situation - is in fact a subplot, triggered by Juno's pregnancy, which sees Mark and Vanessa's marriage fall apart. Divorce rates have been rising for years - that's if people get married in the first place - and it is a great premise to write some drama. The performances of Bateman and Garner are so strong, and a great scene shows just how much tension there is between them and how their marriage has reached its limits, which is made so powerful and emotional by their heartfelt, moving performances, which are quite, yet tense throughout the scene.
Ultimately, none of the comedy or drama would have come to life were it not for the superb cast. Page gives what has so far been the best performance of her career - nope, not even her performance in Inception (2010) manages to surpass this one - by creating some wonderful comedy through the character's bad attitude through some wonderful comic delivery and perfect comic timing, and the character's serious scenes are played so strongly by Page in a very moving performance. Cera captures the awkward teen type perfectly, and also makes Bleeker's fear at the prospect of fatherhood very believable and emotionally gripping. Garner and Bateman make the most dramatic scenes of the film as powerful as they are, with a really emotional on-screen bond (or lack of) and shows just how good they are as actors. And Simmons, well, he's always been good for a laugh, and here he doesn't disappoint with his usual outstanding delivery and top-notch timing.
Just as emotional and deep as it is funny Juno is a must watch. As a Christian I frown on illegitimate teenage pregnancy - especially if it's a one night result like Juno's is - but I approve of this film, as it shows just how emotional it can be, and because this film shows just how an issue such as this, and an issue such as divorce can change people's views and attitudes towards life, and that can only be a good thing to be represented on screen.
Stars: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby.
Oscar: Best Screenplay (Diablo Cody).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith), Best Director (Jason Reitman), Best Actress (Ellen Page).