What makes "Juno" - Jason Reitman's film about pregnant 16-year-old Juno MacGuff - so strong is that it relies on emotion and honesty, not quirky affection.
Propelled by a masterful script by Diablo Cody, what Reitman accomplished is a lot more difficult than filling a world with cutesy characters, such as in "The Royal Tenenbaums," creating unique catch phrases, like in "Napoleon Dynamite," or having a rockin' soundtrack, like "Garden State." "Juno" simply lets its characters speak from the heart. At times, what comes out of their mouths is much too witty to be off the cuff, but from frame to frame, there is a realism of emotion and a sense that the film could have been shot in any suburban rec-room.
With its worn carpet, torn furniture and nervous sexual tension, the scene is set for Juno (Ellen Page) to loose her virginity to her geeky best friend and bandmate, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).
(Spoiler alert: minimal dialogue and plot details coming up : )
Juno's subsequent pregnancy confession to her father and stepmother, Mac and Bren MacGuff (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney), would contend for an Academy Award if there was a "Best Scene" category.
In the movie's most heartfelt moment, Mac tells his daughter that he thought she was the type of girl who knew when to say when.
"I don't really know what kind of girl I am," she responded.
Juno, named after the Roman goddess of women and childbirth, confessed more than just her pregnancy. She's lost, scared and just a kid who's about to embark on a laborious journey that leads her to the doorstep of Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), two attractive yuppies looking to adopt a baby to add to their McMansion.
In Juno's eyes, Mark is like an older, cooler version of Bleeker, whom she struggles to commit to emotionally despite his painfully apparent love for her.
Mark, a commercial composer, loves music, horror movies and comic books. It turns out the man-boy also loves the lost youth that the mother of his prospective adoptive baby represents.
Vanessa, in pearls and pantsuits, simply wants a child to love.
As a movie, "Juno" is a lot like the relationship between Juno and Bleeker.
"You're, like, the coolest person I've ever met, and you don't ever have to try," she tells him.
The movie might be the coolest film of the year.
- Mike McCollum/4 Points