Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Juno

Here's one of the finest American independent films, a film displaying American humor at its finest, a film unafraid to show pathos without being maudlin, a film that'll leave an indelible impression in the mind for many years.

The film (from Fox Searchlight)begins and ends with a chair. Sixteen year old Juno MacGuff--an intelligent, unorthodox teenager who marches to the beat of her own drum--played by Ellen Page climbs upon her naked boyfriend Michael Cera (whose laidback characterization of an American teenager is pitch perfect )who's sitting on a recliner only to get pregnant. At first, she decides to have an abortion, then changes her mind and begins, with the help of her best friend, to look for prospective adoptive parents amid the local "Penny pages" and finds a couple (the woman played by Jennifer Garner) across from the "Puppies wanted" and other prosaic everyday advertisements. The journey toward delivery is split into four sections delineated by the passing seasons. Allison Janney plays her loving stepmother, a woman whose life revolves around dogs and dog-grooming but who can't have a dog at home because Juno is allergic, and JK Simmons (of Oz fame) is the dad. Janey shows Juno both sympathy and tough love and there is an excellent scene where the two argue for all of one minute and Juno--the moody, bitchy teenager--screams that she can't wait to be able to leave the house. Janey replies calmly that she can't wait either because then she'll be able to get two Weimeramer puppies.

An intriguing relationship with the prospective father--he's a musician like Juno-- begins to develop when Juno arrives at their door unexpected to give him them updates about the fetus's progress and his wife is at work, a relationship that reveals him as a man who's never grown up fully as the plot unfurls. It's a definite and plausible twist on the adult-child dynamic.

And the plot resolves in an unusual and, I must say refreshingly un-Hollywood, way that will propel it to importance in my judgment.

Go see it--it's terrific.

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