Juno directed by Jason Reitman

2 Aug

Bibliographic Information

Juno directed by Jason Reitman, Fox Searchlight, 2007, 97 minutes.

Plot Summary

Juno Macguff (Ellen Page) is an eccentric 16-year-old who discovers that she’s gotten pregnant after a one-night stand with her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).  Instead of getting an abortion, she decides to carry the baby to term and put it up for adoption. After searching for ads in the Pennysaver, she decides to let a wealthy couple, Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Gardner and Jason Bateman) adopt her child.

Things get complicated over the course of Juno’s pregnancy.  Her feelings for Paulie become stronger, although she has difficulty telling him after demanding that he give her some space.  She becomes increasingly close to the Lorings throughout her pregnancy, especially Mark, who seems more of an adult boy than a man ready for the responsibilities of fatherhood.  The more time she spends in their lavish estate, the more she wants to be a part of their world.  When Mark makes a pass at her, she must decide if she really wants the couple to raise her child after all.

Critical Evaluation

Juno is a smart, well-written comedy with a great performance by Ellen Page in the title role.  Diablo Cody, the screenwriter, won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for the film and deservedly so.  The film is full of witty exchanges, like this one:

Vanessa Loring:

Your parents are probably wondering where you are.

Juno MacGuff:

Nah… I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?

Juno’s intelligence and sense of humor make her an endearing character that the audience immediately sympathizes with.  She is both naïve and knowing, a girl who accidentally gets pregnant and then must figure out her feelings for Paulie, the baby’s father, and Mark, the baby’s adopted father.  She is still very young but her circumstances thrust her into an adult world where relationships only get more complicated and confusing.

Jennifer Gardner, playing the infertile Vanessa Loring provides another stand out performance in the film.  Her role is quieter than the loud and acerbic Juno, but affecting in her quiet desperation to be a mother.  She and Juno are very different people, but by the end of the film have formed a strong bond despite their difficult circumstances.

The music in the film is pitch perfect and adds another element to the characterization of the main character.  The songs from indie artist Kimya Dawson seem to voice the unique and independent aspects of Juno’s character.  In the final shot when she and Paulie play a song together, they sound like Dawson’s band, The Moldy Peaches, that is behind much of the soundtrack.

Reader’s Annotation

When sixteen-year-old Juno Macguff gets pregnant she decides immediately to put the baby up for adoption.  She thinks she’s found the ideal parents in wealthy and attractive couple Vanessa and Mark Loring. The more time she spends with the Lorings, the more complicated her relationship with them and the baby’s real father becomes.

Information about the author

From the director’s Wikipedia page, we learn that Jason Reitman “is a Canadian/ American[2] film director, screenwriter, and producer, best known for directing the films Thank You for Smoking (2005), Juno (2007), Up in the Air (2009), and Young Adult (2011). As of February 2, 2010, he has received four Academy Award nominations, two of which are for Best Director.

Genres

Independent film, comedy, coming of age

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Booktalking Ideas

The film has been called both a pro-life and pro-choice film.  Do you think it fits into either category?

How is Juno different at the end of the film?  Has her experience made her wiser about sex and relationships?

Reading Level / Interest Age

Grade 10 and up

Challenge Issues

The film is rated PG-13 for language and some mention of sex acts.  Some may object to the story of a sixteen-year-old having sex and getting pregnant.  The film shows the realities of the teen pregnancy without glamorizing or promoting it in any way.

Why did I include this title?

Juno is a smart and funny comedy with a stand out performance by Ellen Page in the title role.  Rather than provide easy answers, it shows how complicated relationships are and how much more difficult they become when a child is involved.

 

 

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