This year’s “Little Miss Sunshine” equivalent, “Juno” manages to rise above the often over-rated ‘affectionately quirky indie comedy’ genre and turn the story of a cynical knocked up teenage slut into an endearing and sweet tale with some real emotional heft.
Armed with a short eighty-something minute runtime and a generally positive and uplifting attitude to its smart comedy stylings, it’s no wonder that major audiences have flocked to see this over the despair-driven limited appeal darlings that made up most of the awards race this year. Diablo Cody’s near flawless script is bristling with that immediately quotable and smart, pop culture-driven dialogue that teenagers only spout in ironic post-modern comedies.
One could immediately discredit that element of robbing the story of any realism, but Reitman’s sure direction and a brilliant supporting cast allow for rock solid delivery of the lines to make it all work. The dialogue is rarely laugh out loud, but is endlessly clever, witty and sassy – so much so that it will probably take a few viewings to really get at all the layers of some of the throwaway references.
Ellen Page delivers a truly star-making turn as the titular incubator, getting all the best lines and a few moments to stretch her emotional range amidst all the well-informed wisecracks. Other cast members like JK Simmons and Allison Janey as the understanding parents get their own zingers, whilst funnymen Jason Bateman and Michael Cera are more subdued and genuine than we’re used to seeing them.
Aside from Page though, if someone else gets a lot of deserved acclaim out of this it has to be Jennifer Garner as the prospective adoptive mother of Juno’s offspring. Known mostly for her ass-kicking action heroine roles, “Juno” shows off a completely different side to the actress who turns what could’ve been an easily caricatured role into something with real depth and poignancy.
It’s a superbly polished little comedy, that’s it. “Juno” never really aims higher than its indie film roots, and despite its everyday appeal the humor stays so consistently high brow that one would’ve liked to have seen a few genuine belly laughs to give it an even broader appeal. Yet in some ways that would spoil the unique flavor it has going. Not the funniest, but easily the most well-crafted comedy of the year.