It may be easy now to lash out at Juno, the 2007 indie dramedy that became a surprise hit and big contender at the Oscars. Since then, its critical acclaim has considerably declined. The film feels derivative of the work of Wes Anderson and hasn’t aged well, with many of its cultural references being somewhat out of date. Still, Juno remains a very enjoyable and likeable offbeat comedy, if a bit overrated.
After her best friend Paulie (Michael Cera) impregnates her, teenager Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) questions whether she should keep her child or not. After counseling with her parents (Allison Janney and J. K. Simmons) and her other friend Leah (Olivia Thirby), Juno decides to give off her baby to adoption to a yuppie couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman.
For much of its runtime, Juno devotes itself to the teenage angst of its eponymous protagonist, who is in constant conflict with her school and friends. Paulie is embarrassed by Juno’s pregnancy and soon shuns her and Bateman and Garner soon find their commitment is going astray.
For such a sensitive event such as teenage pregnancy, Juno’s political stance is very mild. While it caused some controversy in 2008, it didn’t spark much public outrage you’d expect a blockbuster movie about a girl questioning abortion would. Perhaps that’s due to the film’s subject, which isn’t so much about underage sex as it is about teenage life, and director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody make clear they’re more interested in the second. Juno’s greatest strength is its ability to reveal the frustration of high scholars in a day-to-day life. It’s relatable to anyone who has gone through high school and has dealt with stress in their social life.
But Juno feels a bit like it should have spent more time on the production board to straighten out its ideas. I would have preferred to have a film more strung to reality, as Cody and Reitman feel the need to crank up sentimentality and wishy-washiness in some scenes, not to mention to overall quirkiness grows old after some time. As a Best Picture nominee, its status was only semi-deserving; it certainly isn’t in the same league as No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood and Zodiac and Once would have been more suitable in the category. However, Juno still possesses much of its charm and likeability and while overhyped, it’s an affable watch.