The little movie that could. The only Oscar nominated movie that wasn't a nihilistic, violent, and/or depressing bringdown. The breakout role for Ellen Page. Juno is a wonderful little movie, which explores real problems without denying the viewer hope for humanity. Why is it that to be considered art nowadays, a movie has to be a painful exercise? Did you know, for example, that Raiders of the Lost Ark was nominated for best picture? Imagine that, a rollicking rollercoaster ride, well written and impeccably directed, could be nominated for best picture? Do you also remember that Forrest Gump, a touching, funny, and dare I say kind hearted movie actually won best picture? That feat will not soon be repeated in Hollywood, as the standards for quality seem to exclude popular movies from being nominated. Indeed, the nominating process in Hollywood is probably something akin to elitist music snob poseurs in high school fumbling over who discovered which crap indie band first.
Well, let me assure you, the moderate commercial success of Juno is assuredly not the crap indie band of my former analogy. Juno is pure vintage U2. It follows the story of the movie's namesake Juno as she unwittingly becomes pregnant, and in a serendipitous epiphany at an abortion clinic, decides that she will carry the baby full term and find it a great home. Where does one find such a home? Why, the Penny Saver, of course!
We follow Juno as she navigates the worlds of high school, her family, and the prospective parents to be. The interactions are priceless. The world of Juno exists somewhere between the Coen Brother's Fargo and the pseudo Rexburg of Napoleon Dynamite, although these characters are more acutely self aware and, dare I say, smarter than those that exist in either of those other movie created worlds. Indeed, one of the knocks on the movie is that kids don't really talk as smartly as they do in this movie (and as a high school teacher, I can verify this), but my response is, who cares? It is a wonderful little world that has been created here, full of characters that the audience cares about. Ellen Page has been heralded (and rightly so) for her performance, but the cast's ensemble is perfect. There is not a weak performance to be found.
Juno is not a perfect movie, but for a dramedy it strikes just about the perfect balance. Even though I drew a Napoleon comparison, the comedy to drama ratio is about 60/40 (although the wife says she'd peg it as the opposite). This is a relatively family friendly affair, although, to maintain cred with the academy they do drop the obligatory F-bomb, and there are scenes that insinuate sex. For anyone that wants a movie that explores an imperfect world, with imperfect problems, without robbing us of hope for a perfect future, then Juno will fit the bill nicely.
My rating? Three and a half pregnancy tests out of four.
Rated PG-13 for some insinuated nookie content, pandering to Hollywood hipsters with an F-bomb, a little edgy language, and themes regarding human reproduction (it's about teen pregnancy for heaven's sake!)