Monday 25 February 2008

Review: Juno

Year: 2008
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenwriter: Diablo Cody
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, J.K Simmons

I was to say that this film is "the little movie that could" however this quote has already been taken by a fave reviewer of mine. However in looking at the Oscars in recent years you can see what people mean by said quote. Did you see Seabiscut winning anything? In the bedroom anyone?

It seems that every year a small film is aloud to come out of the underground and have a look around. It looks like this year it's Juno. It is this years Little Miss Sunshine which was last years Capote (that doesn't sound right but fuck semantics). It's up against the Coens and P.T Anderson and like their movies or not both movies look like shoe-ins for the big awards. Hell even Atonement looks like it has more of an outside chance (however it looks too English compared to the Western throwbacks it's up against).

Juno is unfortunately the "cute" film that makes the Academy Awards not look like a back slapping jerk off parade. It's a shame because politics aside Juno is a fine film from Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. The film will always be considered "that little indie film" but don't let its unfortunate pigeon holing take anything away from it's refreshing sweetness and touching story. Juno has it's quirks but unlike many movies that this film will get lumped with those little touches will not be the only thing about it.

It seems that Reitman has no worries with taking difficult themes and breathing a light freshness to them. Teenage pregnancy can be touched upon in mainstream film but of course it's one of those issues that American film would like to keep in the unseen arthouses or bad T.V dramas along with realistic outcomes of violence (see elephant) and of course the oldest of chestnuts...race (don't let that Oscar win for Crash fool you, remember what I said about back slapping.)

Juno takes a hard subject and lightens it enough to be entertaining and funny but manages to keep that balance up to show an extremely emotional situation which would be hard to deal with some all sides. Juno hasn't has much upfront conflict as it's subject matter would suggest but Reitman keeps it simmering just under the surface. Juno is a sassy and tough teenage kid but passing moments in the film show the audience how fragile she is.

Juno reminds me of the film Igby goes down but Reitmans direction is stronger than Burr Steers and Diablo Cody looks to be a better writer. The manage to make the central character of the film three dimensional. Snuggled into that space between childhood and womanhood, her moments of immaturity are honest and natural, while her intelligence throughout the film is fierce but also believable. Despite her being outspoken and edgy she is also selfless and understanding. While all I say sounds like badly written pseudo, cinematic babble. It is hard to find young characters like this in mainstream film.

To play a part like Juno you need a damn fine young actor and Ellen Page is brilliant. Page is an actor that's not only showing alot of range at such a young age (watch Hard Candy and X men 3) but she manages to act with a humility that is missing from actresses the same age either that or she just fucking acts either way I'd rather her cop off with an Oscar than Keira Knightley (I'm I the only person who thinks she's a plank of wood?)

Page is joined by a brilliant cast. J.K Simmons, Jason Bateman and Allison Janney are great in roles that would be extremely thankless in lesser films. All three are great character actors that use their best attributes to each role. Bateman has a rouge charm about him which is hidden in many of his latest roles due to the need to be either a straight man or "zany". Simmons has great presence throughout and can command a scene if need be while Janney is a chameleon who can get lost in a role with ease. Cera is also great (although typecast) while Jenifer Garner is the most surprising entry. She needs to appear in more material like this as she standsout a hell of a lot more.

When I'm not watching big, hard, manly films, it's sweet soft films like Juno that reminds me how touching cinema can be. A film like this could take it's subject matter in many different ways and manages to give a the audience a tender tale subtly told by Reitman. A great ensemble cast, a script that feels fresh and funny, a great soundtrack and a story well told that doesn't feel manipulative and corny. Next year another Juno will be entered into the awards buzz and I'm sure it may have it's charms. However I do doubt it feel be a cute as Juno is.