It’s half term, so the cinema was full of horrible teenagers, gaggling around with their young faces, doing what horrible teenagers do best - chatting on their phones, putting their hoods up, mugging old people and getting pregnant. Even on screen, there they were. Teenagers. Pregnant teenagers all younger than me and horrible.
Ok, maybe on screen it was just the one pregnant teen. And that was, of course, Juno. This year’s token “non-weighty/epic” Oscar fodder. To be honest I wasn’t expecting to like this all that much. The TV adverts featured a voiceover man gaily proclaiming that “everyone’s falling for Juno!” Posters were plastered on every other bus, with comments from magazines like Heat, New Woman, Vapid Lifestyles, and Blindly Following Celebrities Instead of Focussing on Real Issues weekly. The film itself features cutesy animated titles and a soundtrack full of two chord tinkles with sugary vocals. It was all pushing my “reject with a miserable sneer” button, often engaged when “everyone falls” for a film I decide isn’t good enough but probably wouldn’t have minded if it didn’t have the hype. See, I can admit flaws like that because I’m a better person. Better than everyone else - have you seen the intro to this site?
Anyway, thankfully some of the clever papers gave this good reviews too, so it was ok for me to like it. And like it I did, to a large extent. The story is Orlando-simple. Sixteen year-old Juno gets preggars by mistake and decides to give her baby up for adoption to a desperate couple. Take the tone one way and you could end up with issues-a-plenty, but Juno heads into the wry comedy zone and nails it. Ellen Page (who did the snipping in Hard Candy) sassess it up as the title character, taking Diablo Cody’s script (also Oscar-nommed) and jabbing sardonic quip after sardonic quip at the lens, but not without a few moments of genuine emotion - check out the quivering mouth-corner during one crying episode. Now that’s what you call control.
Page is supported by an equally strong cast, with Michael Cera (Superbad) playing his now trade-mark quiet but sweet role, his Arrested Development co-star Jason Bateman as the slightly iffy adoptive daddy to be, and equine skeleton Jennifer Garner gets landed with the straight part, but does a darn good job as the non-mother who just wants a baby.
But Juno is a way off a perfect CF5, and that’s because it doesn’t really deliver anything new or try to say anything too profound. Not that every film has to, and not that a film can’t just entertain on its own merits, which this certainly does. But without a steady influx of big belly-laughs, Juno can’t just hang its hat on the comedy peg (one-liners to make you chuckle being its standpoint). The script crackles with wit and off-beat humour, but displaces the cast into Dawson’s Creek / The OC territory, meaning you never really believe these characters could be real. So what’s left is a reasonable drama with some gestures towards themes like love, parenthood and the obvious teenage pregnancy stigma. Such lacking in full-on comedy or drama means Juno stops its climb up the CF ranks at a CF1. I’m not miserably sneering at it, but I’ve certainly not fallen for Juno. She is a teenager after all.