What's all the fuss about?

Released in 2007, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 05 May 2008 by Scott Morris
Juno image

Right then, multiple Oscar nominated, one? Oscar winning teen pregnancy based comedodrama Juno, directed by Jason Reitman. Promising, I suppose, although perhaps it explains the real reluctance I had to actually sit down and watch this. After all, a goodly number of films the usual authorities have promised would be wonderful turned out to rather suxxor, as I believe the youth of today would say.

To be honest, for the bulk of the time spent watching this I was somewhat puzzled as to what to make of it. While it contained a goodly number of things I'd typically like in a film, there was also an almost subliminal undercurrent of... something that made me want to start kicking it. Even the relatively early deployment of the word 'shenanigans' which is almost guaranteed to soften me towards anything was leaving me somewhat cold. Something was afoot.

I'm rather getting ahead of myself, though. After the titular Juno (Ellen Page) finds herself knocked up by Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera)'s man yoghurt, she discards the notion of aborting the sprog in favour of giving it up for adoption with Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner), who seem to have the ideal setup for the coming attraction, at least until it prompts a crisis in their relationship. Err, between that and Juno's struggles with her schoolmates who largely view her as a freakish warning and her slightly oddball relationship with Paulie, that's about it in terms of storyline, as is often the case in character driven outings. Which is why it's often easy to get ahead of one's self when starting to write about it. However, it does rather seem that I've caught up with me.

Juno image

Where was I? I forget. Anyhoo, some execrable pseudo-ironic early doors obsession with teen slang aside (Homeskillet? Really?), Juno is rather sharply scripted, with dialogue that seems like it would be naturalistic, were it delivered by other actors than actually on camera. Odd then, that despite not changing in style by the film's end everyone involved seems a lot more convincing and relaxed in their roles. Was this film shot largely in order? Can we blame those terrible space goblins in a more sinister explanation? Only time and judicious application of the science hammer will tell.

Observant readers will by this point have realised that this review contains a good deal more flannel and padding than the usual vast amounts of flannel and padding I'd use in the course of discharging my duties. The reasons for this are probably transparent enough, there just really isn't all that much that's remarkable about Juno. Which is odd in itself, given the hyperbole that surrounds it. By all means, it's a perfectly enjoyable film. One of the better films eligible for last years Oscar noms, indeed. However, I cannot help but feel that the fact that it wasn't only a major contender but an actual winner is really more of a damning indictment of the state of film-making over the past year than a major vote of confidence in the chops that Juno displays.

While admittedly I'm not doing a bang up job describing why, I did rather wind up liking Juno a lot. Sharp scripting, eventually endearing characters and a blinding supporting role in Juno's father from J.K Simmons make for an enjoyable watch, but Oscar-worthy? Hmm. This is the sort of Indy fayre that was ten-a-penny not too many years ago that would never have come within prodding distance of Oscar selection. I can't see what's massively improved here that's putting Juno over the top. Thus endeth the review of Oscar selection and the state of film-making in general.

Oh yeah, and this film's pretty good. You should probably watch it. Sorry if that wasn't made particularly clear.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.

Jason Reitman
Cast list:
Ellen Page (Juno MacGuff)
Michael Cera (Paulie Bleeker)
Jennifer Garner (Vanessa Loring)
Jason Bateman (Mark Loring)