A review of “Juno” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

 

 

Ellen Page adds sparkling notes to this quirky teen indie about growing up the hard way.

Only a grating, in-your-face score mars the cinescape as Juno MacGuff (Page) and semi-squeeze Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) do the nasty and Juno finds herself (surprise, surprise) with child.

As she’s only a child herself Juno needs to come clean with her Dad (my main man J.K. Simmons) and uptight stepmom (Allison Janney). The ‘rents have a three-year old named Liberty Bell which offers plenty of insight into the family dynamic.

Next step is locating a brace of proper adoption parents. Tucked into the latest issue of Penny Saver, alongside an ad for exotic birds, is the perfect pair of desperately seeking “baby-starved wing nuts”. Not exactly the edgy, graphic designing, rocking out on a bass guitar guardians Juno had in mind but beggars can’t be choosers.

The eager adoptees (Jennifer Garner as Vanessa and Jason Bateman as Mark) take a meeting with Juno and her dad, toting along their lawyer to hammer out the terms of an “open” adoption. Juno balks, preferring to kick it “old testament style”; metaphorically dropping the tot in a wicker basket and floating it down the river amongst the reeds. (i.e. a “closed” adoption)

As the months progress an expanding Juno handles the situation in her own inestimable fashion, developing an awkward crush on Mark that could threaten the future of his marriage and Juno’s best laid plans.

Quirky is tricky business, toeing a razor-thin line between amusing and the absurd. Director Jason Reitman (“Thank You for Smoking”) relies on the fresh antics of his leading lady to get the job done with idiosyncratic flair. Page is magnificent, even while throwing out the quips at gabby, exaggerated warp-speed.

Scripting is invigorating, but if I’m to be perfectly honest (and that’s why they pay me the big bucks) a touch over-written by ex-stripper cum It Scribe Diablo Cody. As such it still manages to support both the humor and the pathos of an ill-equipped teen facing a monumental choice.

Sweet, sassy, and satisfying.