The darling movie, "Juno", from Fox Searchlight Pictures, breathes new life into an old theme, teenage pregnancy. While in reality, this predicament requires medical and perhaps even psychiatric intervention, in this movie, this dilemma is humorous, touching and not so dire. This story is not about the despair of teenage pregnancy, but about the hope a new life brings and the search for the perfect parents. With heart, luck and the local penny -saver, Juno MacGuff, the heroine, begins her enchanted journey.
Juno is the reason this movie shines. The Oscar award winning original screenplay by Diablo Cody is chock full of telling details and intelligent dialogue that fires nonstop, mostly from the mouth of the heroine. All eyes and ears can’t help but focus on the star. Ellen Page, a twenty-one year old from Halifax, is the actress who plays the SunnyD -chugging, hamburger phone - talking, one of a kind Juno. Her stellar performance captures the Oscar nomination for best actress and the cover of The Sunday New York Times Magazine, February 10, 2008 – “Breakthrough Performances in Film."
Who is Juno? She is an adolescent searching for her identity. She has positive traits to spare and a few to die for defense mechanisms. Discussing her character is like finding yourself at your favorite all you can eat buffet restaurant. Where do you start? She is extroverted and communicative. She talks to her parents and tells them she is pregnant, a move that demonstrates her honesty and courage. She calls herself the “cautionary whale". This declaration shows her sense of humor and her ability to laugh at herself. Juno is independent. She is loving and selfless. She doesn’t want any monetary reward for giving her baby to the Lorings. This lack of financial savvy can be a saintly trait or it may be a sign of innocence. In the beginning of the film, there’s another hint of Juno’s innocence. She pees on the pregnancy stick in the convenience store bathroom and discusses the results with the store clerk. Is this endearing or embarrassing? Either way, these behaviors remind us she is just a child despite how grown up her talk may be.
For dessert, there are her defense mechanisms. She uses humor to relieve anxiety and to hide her vulnerability. In the abortion clinic scene, she begins a conversation about toenails on the fetus that continues even after she leaves the clinic. The image of toenails is humorous and helps distract from the weighty issue of abortion. She uses altruism. She focuses on giving her baby a good future. Amazingly, she bypasses denial and the acting out defense. They would be dangerous, although cinematically entertaining, coping styles for a pregnant girl.
“Juno" is a story without guilt, without in your face negative consequences for getting pregnant at age sixteen. No one punishes the heroine for her transgression. There is no tsunami of disappointment, anger, or self -recrimination to crush her spirit. On the contrary, her support system (played wonderfully by J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Michael Cera and Olivia Thirlby) is unflinchingly constant. Her father, her stepmother, her boyfriend and her best friend all still love her just as they did before the pregnancy.
With her winning personality and out of this world support system, not only is this story destined for some version of happily ever after, this story is a fantasy. There should be two ratings: a rating of PG 13 for content and a rating of F for fantasy. This is not a normal family. Juno is too centered and grounded for a teenager with child. The parents are too understanding. Teenage pregnancy is a story of childhood traumatically lost. “Juno" is a story of childhood magically undisturbed. Definite guidance is needed for adolescents who see this film.
This movie is darling, delicious and delightful and should not be missed. See it because it’s not just a feel-good movie, it’s a feel–really -good movie. See it to meet Juno, an unforgettable character everyone else already knows and loves.
Reviwed by Susie Hou, M.D. firstname.lastname@example.org