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Movie Review

Juno

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Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Alison Janney, JK Simmons and Olivia Thirlby.

Duration: 92 minutes

Certificate 15A

1 of 1 As intelligent and heartfelt a tale as you could wish to be told
As intelligent and heartfelt a tale as you could wish to be told

Teenage pregnancy is a subject that can bring out the worst in people, from the ultra-critical to the overly-sympathetic. 'Juno' tackles the thorny issue with humour, humility and, most importantly, honesty.

Juno McGuff (Page) is a quick-witted 16-year-old girl operating outside the conventional norms of her local Minnesota high school. One evening (because she was bored, she claims) she becomes 'sexually active' with her close friend and fellow band member, Paulie Bleeker (Cera).

A confident chap he may not be, but virile he certainly is and two months later Juno discovers she is with child. Deciding to have an abortion, Juno changes her mind after a visit to the clinic. The dilemma she faces is that she wants the child to have a good upbringing, but does not consider herself ready to be a mother.

So, in keeping with her leftfield outlook on life, she opts to enter into an agreement with an affluent couple. The deal is that Vanessa (Garner) and Mark (Bateman) will pay for all the medical expenses relating to the pregnancy in return for full custody of the baby once it is born. It seems the perfect solution, but, unsurprisingly, matters become more complicated as D-Day approaches.

'Juno' has received four Oscar nominations, with Page, who has yet to reach the age of 21, in the running for Best Actress. It is no less than she deserves, and the future looks extremely bright for the young Canadian. Her compatriot Cera, who previously shone in the excellent 'Superbad', does not get a huge amount of screen time as the bashful Bleeker, but still comes out with an enhanced reputation.

Much credit must also go to the parental performances of Simmons (as Mac) and Janney (as Bren). They show that a calm and measured approach to life's trials and tribulations can help us to triumph in the face of adversity. The soundtrack isn't half bad either, with tracks from Belle & Sebastian, The Velvet Underground and The Moldy Peaches superbly complementing the mood of mild melancholy.

All too often movie-makers take the easy option and trivialise the teenage experience. Here, however, writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman treat adolescents with the respect that a lot of them deserve. In Juno, we have a character that is blessed with the wisdom and composure to deal with the unfortunate predicament that she - self-admittedly - is ultimately responsible for.

The film also asks some questions about our attitudes towards family values, leaving you wondering whether having two parents is necessarily the 'ideal' way to bring up a child.

Cody's past (she once worked as a stripper) has courted some controversy, but that should not detract from the fact that what she has come up with here is as intelligent and heartfelt a tale as you could wish to be told.

Séamus Leonard

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