If you‘ve been paying attention to the Critic’s Awards lists that are coming out all over the place these days you’ve probably noticed a name you probably aren’t familiar with popping up here and there. It’s Ellen Page, a young Haligonian who in recent months has become Hollywood’s “It-Girl.” You’ve glimpsed her in X-Men 3, maybe heard the buzz out of Sundance for Hard Candy and TIFF for The Tracey Fragments, but up until now it’s been hard to put a face to the name. Juno should change all that.
Directed by Thank You For Smoking’s Jason Reitman, Juno is an screwball comedy about a pregnant sixteen year old who decides to give up her baby to a young, seemingly perfect childless couple. Reitman, working from a script by the excellently named Diablo Cody, handles the material with the ease of someone who grew up around comedy—his father is Ghostbuster’s director Ivan Reitman.
Despite the hip and impossibly witty dialogue—almost every line sounds like a punch line and is so slick it threatens to teeter over into “so hip it hurts” territory—Reitman and Page manage to ground this story, keeping it funny but also injecting a goodly amount of humanity into the proceedings. That’s a good thing because when you have, for example, a convenience store clerk (played by Rainn Wilson of The Office) watching Juno shaking her pregnancy test and saying lines like: “That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. That’s one doodle that can’t be undid, homeskillet,” there better be strong grounding or the movie could degrade into a quirky Napoleon Dynamite wannabe and little else.
The movie’s secret weapon is Page who carefully portrays the spunky Juno MacGuff not just as a smart-mouthed teen who got herself in the family way by seducing her high school crush, but as a complicated young woman who uses her wit as a wall to protect herself from the harsh realities of life.
Bouncing off Page are Brampton, Ontario’s Michael Cera, fresh off his turn in the hilarious Superbad, playing the kind of sensitive teenager not often seen on screen and great supporting work by Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. They’re all great, but make no mistake; this is Page’s movie from top to bottom.