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Empire List #463: Juno

The least that can be said about “Juno” is that its cast and crew all come from a unique background. The screenwriter, Diablo Cody, was offered the job after writing a blog about her days as a stripper. The director is Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman who directed comedy classics such as “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters.” Good genes right there. And of course there is the star, Ellen Page, a young actress from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who before “Juno” was best known for a supporting role in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” I thought she deserved more recognition for “Hard Candy” in which she plays a 14-year-old that lures herself into a photographer’s home and threatens to do permanent damage to his nether regions. Now the whole world knows her and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

“Juno” got a lot of hype in 2007 for its actors, story, and witty dialogue written by its unusual screenwriter. The characters intrigued me, even though I am not exactly the target audience. The story deals with a 16-year-old Minnesota girl who discovers she is pregnant and wants to give up the baby for adoption. As a guy, not exactly a problem I can identify with and I’ve never met any pregnant teens. Still, no matter your age or gender it’s a touching story, which was worth waiting the DVD release. I would have seen it on the big screen, but once again the cinemas in Quebec chose to only show the dubbed version. Given how the dialogue was part of the hype, it was much better to wait a few weeks and go for a rental.

The story begins with the titular Juno drinking about two litters of orange juice in order to pee on a pregnancy test. Her worst fears are confirmed as a positive sign appears on the test. She really was not expecting this, as she is usually a very responsible girl, but made the mistake of not using any protection when she lost her virginity to her best friend Paulie Bleaker (Michael Cera). After rejecting the abortion option she analyzes the situation with her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) and decides to give up the baby for adoption. Telling her stepmom, Bren (Allison Janney) and her dad, Mac (J.K Simmons) is also probably a good idea.

When her parents learn about her situation, they are upset but not angry. In fact Mac seems slightly impressed the physically ordinary Paulie managed to impregnate his daughter. “Didn’t think he had in him.” Ouch.

Mac insists on meeting the surrogate parents to make sure they are good people. They meet Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who on the surface seem like the perfect couple: they are responsible people who love each other, have stable jobs, and live in a big house. Mark is a cool guy. He loves punk rock and movies by Dario Argento, as does Juno. Everything seems to be in order, so Juno decides to go ahead with the adoption.

The problem is with Mark who becomes too friendly with Juno. Despite having his own man-cave in his enormous house and being married to a woman so beautiful Jennifer Garner plays her, his friendship with Juno makes him realize he has unfulfilled dreams. He doesn’t cross a line with her, but comes too close for my taste. What is wrong with this guy? He has so much, why risk it all?

I loved every single actor in “Juno”, no matter the role. J.K Simmons stole every scene he was in as Jonah Jameson in the “Spider-Man” trilogy. Jason Bateman starred in one of the funniest TV shows of the 2000s, “Arrested Development” (please let there be a movie) along with co-star Micheal Cera, who keeps showing up in great movies (“Superbad” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) despite seeming like the most ordinary kid in high school. Rainn Wilson, who plays bizarre Dwight Schrute on TV’s “The Office”, has a small role as the irritating clerk at the store where Juno first learns she is pregnant.

Diablo Cody is still highly in demand in Hollywood, despite recent misfire “Jennifer’s Body.” Her Showtime series “The United-States of Tara” is produced by Steven Spielberg no less. If you want to see some of her more recent work for free, check out her YouTube series, Red Band Trailer, in which she interviews celebrities in her trailer and poolside tiki bar.


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