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‘Juno’Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content and language)
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Running time: 1 hr., 31 min.
Rating: PPPP (out of 4)
If Juno were a drink, she’d be a martini ó very dry.
Except Juno MacGuff is 16, so martinis aren’t the issue here.
What’s at issue is that while yes, she is underage, she’s also pregnant.
How Juno goes about getting herself out of this pickle is at the heart of the movie bearing her name.
Juno, by the way, is named not for the Alaskan city but for the wife of Zeus.
She’s funny, whipsmart (pregnancy notwithstanding) and takes matters into her own hands when deciding what to do.
I was thrilled to pieces when “Juno” finally made it to Tinseltown (evidently as part of its new Ciné Arts series). I’ve been dying to see this movie. “Juno” has been a darling of the critics ó which usually means a movie stinks for us mere mortals.
Not in this case.
“Juno” is 94 minutes of real life that’s real ó and not always neat and clean.
Not only is Juno the heart of the movie, she’s its edgy, hip soul, too.
Juno gets pregnant in the opening credits (her idea).
Her pseudoboyfriend is the ubernerdy Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) , whom she calls by his last name.
Poor Paulie spends most of the movie stunned, as if he’s suddenly found himself in the middle of a whirlwind ó which actually he has when it comes to Juno.
You know her. She’s the smart girl at school who’s not popular and not in clubs and damn proud of it. She’s probably more intelligent than the teachers but seems to fly under the radar undetected.
As Paulie’s mom says, she’s different.
Never a good thing in the high school crowd.
Juno’s best friend is Leah (Olivia Thirlby) ó really her exact opposite when you think about it.
She’s a cheerleader (but don’t hold it against her, OK?). She’s also smart and funny and exuberant where Juno’s cool.
Juno plays her feelings close to the vest, and with good reason.
She lives with her dad, Mac (J.K. Simmons), stepmom Bren (Allison Janey) and little sister Liberty Bell. LB has no lines but seems to be into ice skating and bacon bits.
Juno’s parents take the news surprisingly well. They’re just relieved she wasn’t expelled from school for a drug offense.
They also can’t believe meek Paulie is the father.
By this time, Juno has already turned her back on a “hasty abortion” after learning from a classmate that her baby already has fingernails. So with Leah’s help, she finds a couple desperately seeking a baby in the neighborhood Penny Saver.
Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) seem like the picture-perfect couple, living an hour away in a McMansion with a three-car garage.
Garner plays against type this time out.
We’re used to seeing a sweet, funny, warm character. But Vanessa is wrapped just a titch too tight. She’s a type-A personality all the way.
Mark?
Not so much.
He works at home as a writer of commercial jingles. He is not only proud of his slacker life ó OK, he’s a closet slacker, to be sure ó he embraces it whenever Vanessa’s not around.
She keeps him on a short leash, Juno notices, and with good reason.
Juno and Mark develop a rapport which could be creepy if you look at it in a certain light.
But on the other hand, it just goes to show you that the two of them are pretty much on the same maturity level.
They bond over music and slasher movies.
Please.
It took me awhile to figure out that the movie is set in the not-too-distant past, probably around 1999 as there’s a reference to the “Blair Witch Project.”
Given the fact that Juno makes calls on her cheeseburger phone and she and Mark burn CDs for one another, it’s refreshing ó although a little quaint, I admit ó not to have to deal with the ubiquitous technology that pervades our lives today.
There’s so much about this movie to love.
The writing is razor sharp. The characters say lines you wish you thought of yourself.
(Me, I’m always, like, two weeks later, “Oh yeah? Well…”)
Juno’s dad refers to her often as Junebug. Of course he loves her but he’s disappointed that she got herself pregnant.
“I thought you weren’t that kind of girl,” he tells her.
“I really don’t know what kind of girl I am,” is her response.
Juno and Bren seem to have the typical daughter-stepmom relationship. They get on each other’s nerves, but Bren backs her up when necessary ó and when Juno least expects it.
I wish I could say I liked Garner’s character more.
Vanessa wants a baby so badly that her desperation permeates every scene. She’s afraid to hope, and the scene where she greets the baby in utero is one of the movie’s most touching.
In the title role, Page is just a jewel.
You have to admire her for keeping it together as well as she does ó waddling through the halls at school as her classmates part like the ocean.
She only breaks down once ó but the scene gives you insight into the real gravity of her situation.
Paulie finally gets the nerve to tell Juno how he feels ó there was a lot on TV that fateful night, so she couldn’t have been bored after all, we learn.
I’ll have to be sure and get the movie soundtrack. Kids are always listening to music, and this movie is filled with fresh, fun tunes ó and it gives a nod to the punk rock scene of the late 90s, too. A nice blast from the past for us old folks.
“Juno” is one of the best if not the best movies of 2007. I hope Oscar shines brightly on her.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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