by Tony Dayoub
So it wasn't as precious as I feared. And once you divorce the hype behind its Oscar nominations, Juno is a nice little gem of a movie.
See, I was afraid that Diablo Cody's screenplay for it would be so hip, ironic and of-the-moment that it would date the film years from now. And as Entertainment Weekly and Glenn Kenny at Premiere both pointed out, "honest to blog" it will. With too-clever slang like "pork-sword" for the male organ, and curses like "Phuket, Thailand" for "F*** It", the film does tap into today's kids and their crafty doublespeak meant to keep adults out of the loop. Like The Breakfast Club is forever an 80s movie, and American Pie is distinctly 90s, Juno is one for the 00s (double aughts?).
Not simply the value of its Academy Award-recognized star Ellen Page, but the contributions of the entire cast give this little movie its heart and its depth. Kudos to Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons for playing possibly the coolest parents on Earth without losing sight that their daughter's problem is a serious one. They strike just the right mix of cynicism and humor in dealing with their daughter's situation. Michael Cera's deft portrayal of Bleeker, seemingly clueless but really just waiting for Juno to come around to him on her own, is a model of minimalism. Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby both capture the equal parts catty-and-cool that most girls on the verge of womanhood struggle to get the proper balance of. Ellen Page, of course, was Oscar nominated for this one. Jason Bateman, as the adoptive Dad, acutely communicates his reluctance to be a father without descending into being the "bad guy" of the piece. And what of Jennifer Garner?
If there is an underrated performance here it is Garner's. At the start of the film, she is easily the least likable in the bunch. But once the story begins to unfold, she perfectly reveals her vulnerability. One sees the old devastation of having had her dreams curtailed, and the hope that they will finally come to fruition in the form of Juno's baby. I hope to see her stretch in roles like this in the future.
I'm not so sure it merited the Oscars it was nominated before when other more notable films weren't even nominated. But Juno has legs, and I think it will be a film revisited time and again in the future.