While we were in NYC last week and needed to get out of the pelting icy rain on Thursday, PJ and I saw Juno, the new film starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Allison Janney. Here’s the trailer:

Juno was written by Diablo Cody and was directed by Jason Reitman. It’s about a 16-year-old girl, Juno, played by Page, who gets pregnant after she sleeps with her adorably dorky boyfriend, played by Cera. After considering an abortion, she decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the child up for adoption. Before she even tells her parents that she’s pregnant, she finds the right couple to adopt the child: Garner’s uptight Vanessa and Bateman’s cool Mark. The film then follows Juno through her pregnancy as various comic complications ensue.

Juno has been getting a lot of great press and even some Oscar talk. I think it’s all well deserved, since this is a really good movie. Page is perfect as the 16-year-old who’s too smart for her own good. What I especially like about her performance is that she balances Juno’s innate intelligence with typical teenage stupidity. Juno doesn’t have all the answers, even if she does have a few of them.

The two stand out performances for me were those by Garner and Janney. Garner is great in this movie. Her character has the biggest story arc, and Garner shows Vanessa’s development from point A to point B really well. She too has to make her character’s transition believable and she definitely succeeds. She’s brilliant in this film and overcomes any doubts about her future career (let’s face it– she’s not had a great film career thus far [Elektra and 13 Going on 30 are examples]).

Janney is equally brilliant in a smaller role. She plays Juno’s step-mother. First, I like how this character is written. Cody avoids the stereotypical evil stepmom cliches and instead gives us a sympathetic and interesting woman. Janney does a great job embodying this woman and her comic timing is impeccable. In fact, both parents are well written and surprisingly likable characters. (J. K. Simmons plays her dad — I kept waiting for him to ass rape and then murder someone; I loved him on Oz!)

This is now the second film this year that I’ve seen with Michael Cera, whom I love (see my review of Superbad here). But I do worry that he’s just playing the same part over and over again. His likable geek shtick is endearing, but it’s also getting old. I hope he finds another kind of character to play soon. Otherwise, I doubt that he’s going to have a long career. That said, he’s definitely endearing in this film. I’m always a sucker for the awkward geek.

The movie also makes great use of this song by The Moldy Peaches:

Finally, while I don’t want to give away any of the main plot points, I also admired this film’s rejection of the idea that two parents are necessary to raise a child. Throughout the plot, the film argues against this notion as well as against the idea that Juno is somehow tainted or corrupted by her sexual activity and resulting pregnancy. This film’s ideology is a breath of fresh air. I really enjoyed it.

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