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Thursday, December 27, 2007

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Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2007 at 11:06 AM

MOVIEGOER REVIEW:  JUNO

Youthful sex, and a failure to use some form of contraception, is a common theme at the movies this year.  Judd Apatow showed how a crude and immature boy could grow up when his one night stand gets pregnant in "Knocked Up," one the year's warmest and funniest comedies.  Now comes "Juno," a film that tells the story of a young girl having to grow up when her own one night stand goes awry.

Starring Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff) and Michael Cera (Paulie Bleeker), who also played Evan in the Apatow-produced "Superbad," this tender and super smart film follows this unusual high-school couple during the nine months of her pregnancy.  "It all started with a chair," the film begins.  After a brief conversation with Bleeker, as he is called, she decides to have an abortion.  But a trip to the clinic called "Women Now," because they "help women now" convinces her otherwise.   She decides to carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption. 

Cool and witty beyond her young age, Juno proudly displays her protruding belly under vintage t-shirts and weathered zip hoodys.  She knows good music and says funny things like "He is the cheese to my macaroni" and "I've taken like three pregnancy tests, and I am for shizz up the spout."

Diablo Cody is the author of this artfully crafted dialogue.  Surprisingly, "Juno" is her first screenplay.  Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play Mark and Vanessa Loring, the potential adoptive parents who are on different sides of the matter.  Mark is a former rock musician longing for independence and Vanessa is a desperate-to-be-mother unable to have children of her own.  Mark and Vanessa are a bad match, but the performances of Bateman and Garner are picture perfect.  You believe everything about them, even if you don't like it.

Mac and Bren MacGuff, Juno's father and step-mother, are played compassionately by J.K. Simmons (of the "Spider-man" movies) and Allison Janney (C.J. Cregg from television's "The West Wing").  Leah, played by Olivia Thirlby, is Juno's lone friend.  She's there when Juno breaks the news to her folks, and when Mac says, referring to Mr. Bleeker, "I didn't think he had it in him," Leah, always the pleaser, responds, "I know, right?"  She's the humorous sidekick, never letting things get too emotional or too serious. 

Jason Reitman last directed "Thank You for Smoking" in 2005; a film that took a satirical look at the tobacco lobby.  Unlike that film, there's not a hint of satire in "Juno."  Instead, weaved through Cody's words and Page's Oscar-worthy performance, is a film that is honest and totally boss.

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