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FILM REVIEW - JUNO
By Martin Hall
There’s nothing more irritating than football journalists or pundits annointing a team or player of the season in September. It is, as they say, a marathon not a sprint and football is not the only context where early, rash conclusions can make the predictor look foolish. The only time a judgment can be arrived at is when the race is run and a considered decision can be made. This is always the case.
Except when it isn’t. Having seen Juno last month, I can confidently predict this film will not be bettered in 2008. A moving and witty piece of cinema, it deserves to win Baftas, Oscars, the Grand National and the European Cup.
Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and written by first-timer Diablo Cody, Juno is a thoughful comedy that never hits a false note. Ellen Page plays the 16 year old lead character Juno MacGuff and treats the audience to an assured performance worthy of every accolade received. After having sex with her geeky best friend Paulie Bleeker, Juno falls pregnant while still in High School. Unable to go through with an abortion, her friend Leah suggests she give the baby to a couple looking to adopt through Classified Ads - “They have ads for parents?” “Yeah - Desperately Seeking Spawn” - where she finds the seemingly perfect Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman.)
They initially appear to be the ideal suburban couple but as the film progresses the cracks in their relationship appear. Mark is not ready for the responsibility of parenthood while Vanessa wants a child to complete her life. Inevitably the introduction of Juno into their lives serves to push them apart rather than bring them together.
This film reunites Bateman with his Arrested Development co-star Michael Cera, who plays Bleeker. Although the two don’t share a scene Cera expands on the promise he showed in that programme and following on from his ace turn in Superbad looks set for superstardom. In the wrong hands, Bleeker could have been a lazy cliché but he’s a character as likeable and refreshingly original as Juno’s Dad and Stepmum (J.K Simmons and Alison Jenney.) However, for all the actors fine work much of the credit must go to Cody for her screenplay.
Her writing is a revelation. Making people cry with laughter one scene and weep with sorrow the next: it’s some trick to pull off. She avoids all wrong turns with the courage and poise of a Formula One driver and the snappy dialogue – “Can't we just, like, kick this old school? You know, I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way. Like Moses and the reeds?” “Technically that would be kicking it Old Testament” – is glorious.
In terms of charm and humour, Juno has rarely been beaten. It gets the tone just right and avoids cheap sentimentality. John Peel once said of The Undertones’ Teenage Kicks “There's nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it,” but he could have been talking about this film. Teenage dreams so hard to beat, Juno is a work of genius. Go see it.
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