29 January 2009

DVD: "Juno"

Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons
DVD Release Date: 15 April 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Material, Sexual Content and Language)
List Price: $19.98
Favorite line: "I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans can I get into?"

The Film
Yet another film that announced in its trailer exactly what it is about: Ellen Page's titular Juno is a pregnant teen who decides to turn over the baby to a young, yuppie couple.  Along the way, she's working out her relationship with her baby daddy, Michael Cera's Paulie Bleeker.  Juno marches to the beat of her own drummer, and yet discovers by the film's end that people and their relationships are much more ephemeral than she wanted to realize.  And, of course, that the opposite can also be true, if the people having the relationship are willing to work on it.

The cast is almost distracting for a geek, because half of them have recently been seen in one of the growing number of movies based on Marvel Comics properties: Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand), J.K. Simmons (the Spider-Man trilogy), Jennifer Garner (Daredevil and Elektra).  Garner and Jason Bateman's couple, the Lorings, are the most interesting part of the film.  It's unclear at the beginning just what their motives even are, and when Juno catches Vanessa at the mall playing with a little girl, it becomes even more curious just what's up.  Bateman's Mark, on the other hand, is little more than one of Juno's peers who simply has another twenty years on her.  The ability to easily relate to him soon yields to seeing him for what he is, though: stunted growth as a human being.

The single-disc edition (that I rented) is fairly short on features.  There are a few deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a gag reel, outtakes, screen tests and a "crew jam."  Being a rental, I did not play director Reitman's commentary track, though based on other films of his I suspect it's worth the time.  Reitman made some interesting cuts when editing this film.  The first time we would have seen the Lorings, it would be from Vanessa's vantage point, crying while looking down on Mark escorting a woman into a car driving off.  It might not have made sense then, but during Juno's introduction to the couple, we would have understood that Vanessa's anxieties stemmed from having a previous adoption deal fall through.  Instead, she's played as suspicious and Mark quickly becomes creepy in his efforts to hide hanging out with Juno while his wife is at work.

The Recommendation
Juno is sort of a teen version of Knocked Up.  Just as that film dug deeper than a superficial layer of humor to find a touching humanity, so too does Juno.  The pro-choice crowd dismisses it as anti-abortion propaganda, but as someone pointed out, they'd lose their entire premise for a movie if Juno simply had an abortion.  Besides, doesn't the term "pro-choice" suggest they should be in favor of a would-be mother making her own choices?  Anyway, this is definitely a rental and I would even suggest a blind buy if you can find it cheap enough.

There is also a costlier Special Edition with a few more featurettes and a Digital Copy of the film on a second disc.

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