Last weekend I saw the Jason Reitman comedy Juno. It was superbly funny, honest and endearing. The characters are refreshingly genuine, the dialog sharp and a potentially polarizing storyline is delicately presented without pretense. It is a comedy along the lines of Best in Show.
Ellen Page plays Juno and is undoubtedly the star, though all the film’s actors performed excellently. JK Simmons is particularly funny as Juno’s father; Jason Bateman is a convincingly pathetic yuppie in the midst of 2/5-life crisis, married to a suburban stereotype well portrayed by Jennifer Garner. Juno’s brazen words and actions provide most of the humor. When Bateman’s character first meets Juno and innocently asks, “Juno, like the city in Alaska?”, Juno simply replies “No,” and offers no platitudes to soften the moment. Not all the humor is uncomfortable or abrasive. It comes hard and fast and will make the film worth watching a second and third time.
The depth of the film that kept me captivated was found in Juno’s sometimes masked emotional frailty and the unspoken frailty of the plot. Simmons does a great job of exhibiting unconditional love for his daughter while carefully communicating his disappointment with her choices. Juno’s relationship with her step-mother is strained, but Juno certainly comes to understand that her step-mother ultimately is on her side. The coming together of Juno and her baby’s daddy is warming and cute if not altogether predictable.
The quirky folk/anti-folk soundtrack seamlessly meshes with and adds to the ambiance of the film. I had never heard of the anti-folk movement before seeing Juno; I still don’t know much about it but I do enjoy the songs by Kimya Dawson and two bands she’s in: The Moldy Peaches and Antsy Pants. The success of the soundtrack is proving to be quite a boon for Kimya and she has Ellen Page to thank: when asked, Page told Reitman that Juno would probably listen to The Moldy Peaches. There are a couple of other worthwhile tracks on the album like Sonic Youth’s ethereal cover of The Carpenters’ Superstar, the catchy All I Want is You by Barry Louis Polisar and Dearest by Buddy Holly. The Juno soundtrack is fun to listen to because it is eclectic and it reminds me of the pleasurable experience of watching the movie.