Juno’ turns a crisis into comedy

By Casey Thompson

If “Knocked Up” proved that unplanned pregnancy can be funny,
“Juno” did the same and more for unplanned teen pregnancy.

It seems like a situation that can only end badly for all those
involved, what with the emotional toll that having a child can take
on anyone, especially two kids still in high school with a poorly
defined relationship. Despite the odds, this film turns out to be
the quintessential love story, though not in any cliched Hollywood
way.

Ellen Page stars as the title character – the girl next door
with the quirky charm, as anyone can tell after watching the
trailer for five seconds. But there’s a lot more to this character
than her surface precociousness.

Like any young person, she’s still finding out who she is, and
though she’s willing to admit that much, she remains very assertive
in her decisions regarding her pregnancy. What’s even more striking
is although she seems to handle her pregnancy with confidence and
candor, her attitude about the father is less obvious.

Page manages to straddle the line between such serious subject
matter and the lighthearted fun it belies rather well. She is at
once a girl with a difficult road ahead and a whip-smart charmer
who just wants to play her guitar, watch slasher flicks, and hang
out with her best boyfriend.

The boy in question, Paulie Bleeker, is a nervous track runner
with a perennial crush on the protagonist. Michael Cera imbues this
part with the same stammering sweetness moviegoers saw in
“Superbad.” And while Page dominates the vast majority of the
screen time, there’s just enough Bleeker for Cera fans to be
satisfied.

Running almost counter to this pseudo-couple are Jason Bateman’s
and Jennifer Garner’s characters, who hope to adopt Juno’s unborn
child. One of the biggest advantages of their place in the film
might be to highlight how an established couple can seem less
harmonious than two people who aren’t even technically
together.

Bateman and Garner are almost polar opposites: her a working
woman and him a musical composer still holding on to long-lost rock
dreams. But their unease helps ease the tensions that Juno faces,
because it seems nobody really has it all figured out.

Her father and stepmother, played by J.K. Simmons and Allison
Janney, are the only couple who seem to be on solid ground. They
anchor Juno and serve as a nice example of what a couple that lasts
can be. As in so many other movies that deal with relationships,
Juno really just needs to know it’s possible for such a couple to
exist.

“Juno” is an uplifting film in every sense of the word,
teetering on the cusp of adulthood while maintaining its innocence
and fun. Like many other films of its kind, it shows there can be
comedy in the most serious situations and it’s really just
beautiful to be alive.

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