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‘Juno’ the First LiveJournal, Blogger Film; Writer Diablo Cody a Standout Star

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5AUSTIN, Texas – No one says anything plainly in “Juno”. Hyper clever, hyper literate and hyper pop savvy, it tells a light story of teenage pregnancy in a package of verbose middle classiness.

Ellen Page (left) and Olivia Thirlby in Juno
Ellen Page (left) and Olivia Thirlby in “Juno”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Furthering the influence of the Internet on filmmaking in the 21st century, “Juno” has hyper-thought cleverness and the distinct personality of voice that comes from the personal blogging set. It’s the first LiveJournal or Blogger film.

That’s not entirely odd, though, since 2007’s unjustly maligned “Hot Rod” could’ve been the first feature-length YouTube movie. The dialogue in “Juno” doesn’t just call out to be read. It’s like hypertext that calls to be clicked on.

Under the razor-thin direction of Jason Reitman, “Juno” – unlike “Hot Rod” or “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters” – is a pure movie. It dispenses any obtuseness and has the instincts of an audience pleaser.

Where an average movie about pregnancy turns its water-breaking scene into a dramatic, third-act starter (which even “Knocked Up” did), this film’s screenplay (scribed by hilarious blogger and memoirist Diablo Cody) has its eponymous character signal a pop-culture reference double threat: “Thundercats are go!” (This is a combination of Thundercats and Thunderbirds.)

Ellen Page and Michael Cera in Juno
Ellen Page and Michael Cera in “Juno”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

The movie has two standout stars – Ellen Page as Juno and Cody as the screenwriter – while Reitman (himself the distinct and clever voice behind “Thank You for Smoking”) wisely steps aside for a one-off and applies a perfect, hands-off directorial approach.

He sprinkles certain moments of gravity here and there.

As for Page, I’m not even sure she’s a talented comedienne. She just has the range to act that funny. While there’s none of the same intensity she brought to “Hard Candy” here, there’s still some of the (barely used) tenderness she brought to Kitty Pryde in “X-Men: The Last Stand”.

In “Juno,” she never falls into smugness despite spending most of her screen time being a wise girl. That’s probably because – in this film’s rich screenplay – she’s never necessarily the smartest person in the room. Each adeptly cast role gives a character a speech or moment to shine.

Director Jason Reitman in Juno
Director Jason Reitman in “Juno”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Allison Janney’s nail-obsessed stepmother has the hilarious dressing down of an ultrasound technician while J.K. Simmons has the funny reaction to learning who knocked up his daughter: “Next time I see him, I’m punching him in the wiener.”

That would be Michael Cera, who is still earning his own career-launching lauds from “Superbad”. Despite having the least amount of quotable lines, he milks awkward stutters and sweetness better than anyone his age.

The couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman – in what at first seems like a superfluous subplot – lends the movie most of its gravity. Garner’s baby-lacking matriarch has her best moments when Juno tells her she’s lucky not to be pregnant.

The gem is the turn by Bateman, who tweaks the sarcastic authority of his “Arrested Development” persona into a surprisingly bottom-line, to-be father who never got over the night his band opened for the Melvins. When Bateman, Garner, Simmons and Page first meet on screen, it’s the film’s centerpiece scene.

Jennifer Garner (left), Jason Bateman and Ellen Page in Juno
Jennifer Garner (left), Jason Bateman and Ellen Page in “Juno”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Again, this movie belongs to Cody from her blogging. She’s originally from Chicago, by the way, but moved to Minnesota to live with her Internet boyfriend – Jonny – who’s now her husband. Seriously. They now live in Los Angeles.

Cody is used to clever wordplay to pad earnest moments of connection and soul bearing. Formerly a brief stripper, Cody’s long-running blog (formerly here) gained national exposure with her memoir “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper”.

While the book and blog are almost equally as entertaining (if a little overwritten), Cody’s style – when applied to dialogue – has a leaner, tongue-jumping humanism to it.

Reitman gives generously selfless direction. He finds the widely sought comedy light touch that’s essential here. How many times have you seen a clever movie where the mumble mouths and lazy eyes of actors are passed off as dry wit?

From right to left, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney and Ellen Page in Juno
From right to left, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney and Ellen Page in “Juno”.
Photo courtesy of IMDb

I recently screened “Juno” at the Austin Film Festival where both Reitman and Cody introduced the film.

Reitman said he remembered the day he first read “Juno”. As he introduced her, he told the audience: “You’ll remember this as the day you met Diablo Cody.” Cody promptly replied: “That is the stupidest intro I’ve ever heard.”

Cody could go either way from here. Delivered by inferior actors or directors, her dialogue could quickly grow annoying and go the way of Zach Braff’s blog. Then again, she could be next Kevin Smith.

Reitman himself is too good a writer to only direct.

Page’s range is once in a generation. She’ll be a draw for anything she stars in from here on out. For all these diverse talents, I ultimately came away from “Juno” just wanting these three to get together and make many, many more movies.

Juno is slated to open in limited U.S. theaters (including Chicago) on Dec. 14, 2007. We selected this film as one to watch for on Sept. 14 Our Oscarman rating for this movie currently ties with our highest films.

By Shane Hazen
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com

© 2007 Shane Hazen, HollywoodChicago.com

Anonymous's picture

good website

good movie web….i like this…

Elisa Kit's picture

I love the movie also its

I love the movie also its all about teen pregnancy

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