As I watched director Jason Reitman’s most recent film Juno this past Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend it seemed appropriate that just that week we had been fighting over changes to my studio/loungeroom that would or would not be made when she moved in.
As one grows older one makes sacrifices, of space, time, and general convenience. The young protagonist of Juno deals with such issues with a level of humour and wit rarely seen in American cinema.
Essentially Juno tells the story of a teenage girl who falls pregnant, and the people, from the unwitting father, to her own parents, and the future adoptive parents of her unborn child, that she encounters as she deals with this coming-of-age event.
At the heart of Juno is Diablo Cody’s sensitive and brilliantly crafted script that gives a rare insight into the lives of real, intelligent human beings. In fact these people seem more ‘real’ than the production line of aspiring celebrities one encounters on so-called ‘reality TV.’ Those people are monkeys performing to a production company’s suggestions and the perceived desires of their fellow viewers. Juno’s world is populated with real people with their guard down. People doing stupid things, like we all do, and then dealing with it without losing their sense of humour, an example that undoubtedly more of us should follow.
The dialogue is sharper than Oscar Wilde on free wiz. The characters are likeable in their pure human fallibility, and with fascinating and surprising story arcs. The acting from the likes of J.K Simmons as Juno’s father and The West Wing’s Allison Janney as her stepmother is beautifully natural. There is also the return of Jason Bateman as a thirty-something failed rock muso who many will empathise with just as others see him as a shallow cad. Michael Cera is also impressive as dorky but lovable father of the little bastard-to-be. The most impressive performance of all, and the one that I predict will make this film last the test of time, is that of Ellen Page as the smart and spunky Juno MacGuff herself (the name comes from Roman mythology apparently.)
I met Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters and Animal House director Ivan, last year when he was in Australia promoting Thank You For Smoking. He was a surprisingly down-to-earth, jokey guy, and his darkly goofy sense of humour shines through Juno as it did through Thank You For Smoking. It is this that stops Juno becoming a ‘worthy’ and dull soapy-style cautionary tale, but rather an optimistic coming-of-age story with a healthy sense of irony.
Interestingly the film is produced by John Malkovich who obviously has a keen eye for a good script. Juno is undoubtedly one of the finest blends of drama and comedy to come out of Hollywood in a long time. If only I could deal with my human relationships with the wit, wisdom, ease, and humour that these characters do then my life, and my loungeroom, would be a very different place.