Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Juno (2007)

Directed by Jason Reitman

Starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman


Reitman is definitely influenced by the Wes Anderson troupe. He uses that style as a starting point but then mixes in his unique brand of “trendy quirkiness,” relying on cool, trendy dialogue, obscure cultural references, and contrived awkwardness to make things smarter and funnier. Mixing all that up, though, “confuses” the humor. You have to be careful with comedy. Like Beef Wellington, comedy requires the precise mix of the choicest ingredients in order for it to work.

In any case, I am definitely in the minority on this one. Everyone loves it, and it was up for an Oscar. One thing is for sure: Reitman got quite a cast together for this one.

Ellen Page. Cute girl, but she irritates me. She has the know-it-all, always-on-top, “I am always funny,” “I must over-enunciate everything” type of personality normally reserved for annoying feminist man-hater types. (Note her previous role in Hard Candy.) Bateman has turned into quite the actor, hasn’t he? He’s come a long way since Silver Spoons and Valerie. This is one of his most natural performances and one of Garner’s best as well.

Perhaps Page isn’t as much at fault for the unfunniness as the lines written for her. All those trendy, cool words she uses may be trendy but they are not cool. They just serve to make the dialogue seem scripted, as does the wall-to-wall banter between characters trying to outfunny each other. You need dead space for real comedy.

The drama is where this film finds its strength. Mixed with the comic mess are quiet moments of thoughtfulness, reflection, and true happiness. The silent moment in the mall, the silent moment where Juno breaks down in the car, and the silent moment laying in the hospital are by far the film’s high points. This is good subject matter, a story that (as far as I know) has never really been told before. And it’s touching.

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