Juno is one of those movies where you’re either on its wavelength or you’re not. If you are, it’s wonderful, cute, and heartwarming. If you’re not, it’s practically unwatchable.
The film, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, is often referred to as “twee,” and is probably more associated with that term than any movie not directed by Wes Anderson. There’s the look, the repeated motifs, the soundtrack full of folk songs by Kimya Dawson… Juno arrived in December of 2007, 15 years.
No, I’m not for a moment going to defend that opening scene with Rainn Wilson as a wise-cracking convenience store clerk, or the hamburger phone, or “honest to blog…,” or the extremely judgmental ultrasound technician.
But once it gets going, Juno is a wonderfully sweet story, which was my favorite movie of 2007. (Roger Ebert agreed, in the year of No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, and There Will Be Blood). Diablo Cody, a stripper-turned-Minneapolis-alt-weekly columnist-turned-screenwriter, won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her film debut. Cody based most of Juno’s quirks on her younger self, while the pregnancy was more inspired by that of a friend.
Juno (played by the performer now known as Elliot Page) is a 16-year-old in a Minnesota small town, who finds herself pregnant by uber-nerd Paulie (Michael Cera, during his late-aughts run of this sort of role). He’s a member of the school cross-country team, which runs through the frame in the film’s best running gag.
Supported by her father and stepmom (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney), she agrees to give the baby up for adoption to a couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). She chooses against abortion which, much like the same year’s Knocked Up, is less for anti-abortion reasons than for “this is what the movie is about” reasons.
Bateman, going against type as the failed rock star-turned-conflicted future dad, turns out to be less of a good guy than he appears, and the movie ends on a hopeful note.
Let’s talk about that final scene, a slow zoom backward from Juno and Paulie as they sing. It’s brought me to tears every time I’ve ever seen the movie, even though I’ve never been able to explain why:
Juno was Jason Reitman’s second film, after 2005’s Thank You For Smoking, and his career has been up and down since then, from the outstanding (Up in the Air) to the downright awful (Labor Day, Men, Women, and Children), to somewhere in between (Tully and TheFront Runner, both in 2018). Of late, he revived his father’s most famous franchise with 2021’s mediocre Ghostbusters: Afterlife, with a sequel to come in 2024.
As for Diablo Cody, her next produced script was Jennifer’s Body, in 2009, which was a flop at the time but has been reclaimed in the years since as a masterpiece. She directed a forgettable drama called Paradise in 2013, and she re-teamed with Reitman for Young Adult in 2011 and Tully in 2018, which remains her last movie to date. She also wrote the underrated 2015 film Ricki and the Flash, and she’s listed as the writer of the in-the-works Madonna biopic, as well as a horror comedy movie called Lisa Frankenstein.
Juno may not have hung on to its reputation after 15 years the way that its rivals No Country For Old Men or There Will Be Blood has, but it’s still a highly enjoyable movie, which moved above those silly catchphrases to grow into a sweet, mature work.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.