Thursday, 25 April 2013

Juno (2007)

It was halfway through the week when I texted Swedish Charlotta, letting her know that Jason Reitman's 2007 teen comedy Juno. For a few months, she had been looking around for the DVD to show me, but to no avail - mainly down to the sad decline of HMV. She was adamant that she would have to show me Juno before she has to go back home to Sundsvall in June, as she is quite a big fan of the film. She has the hamburger phone and everything. Given all this, she was understandably keen that I should record it so that we cold watch it together the next day.

And thus, that Sunday, we were sitting in my living room watching Ellen Page's belly slowly get bigger. After her debut in the disturbing and creepy horror Hard Candy, it was this film that made her the darling of many a director. Both Brett Ratner and Christopher Nolan were impressed enough to cast her, and you don't have to strain to see why. As the eponymous pregnant teen, Page gives the film its distinctive sense of humour, with a lively bounce even when she's carrying a heavy belly and quick, extremely quotable lines. Juno's connectable and likeable from the moment you see her swigging her Sunny D, and you follow her through the film actually caring about the decisions she makes.

When Juno discovers she's pregnant at 16 from a quick fling with her scrawny high school friend Paulie, played by the terrifically enjoyable Michael Cera. After quickly dismissing abortion following a nasty experience in the clinic waiting room, she decides adoption is the best option, and sets about finding a suitable blue-eyed, smiling couple in the newspaper. Finding one in the Lorings, she gets to know them and makes unlikely friends. The film follows her nine months and how those around her react to the news. Teenage pregnancy might not seem like a typical subject for such a whimsical comedy, but the awkwardness surrounding it is just what makes it brilliant.

Another key part of Juno's appeal is the wonderful soundtrack, full of cheery indie melodies, all acoustic guitars and tambourines. I knew I'd love it as soon as I heard Well Respected Man by The Kinks (my favourite rock band of the 20th century) introduce Paulie. It was a perfect choice, as if it was written for the character despite having been written forty years earlier. The soundtrack managed to reach number one in the USA, and includes brilliance such as Mott the Hoople, Buddy Holly and the great Scottish band Belle and Sebastian. Charlotta was one of those who bought the album, and she can now sing along to just about every word. What does that tell you?

Juno is made up of many layers of brilliance. There's the music, the witty writing on top of that, the charming story and acting on top of that. It takes skill to balance so many layers and still be able to pass it off as simple enough for everyone to be able to enjoy. There isn't a cheap joke in the one and a half hour running time, yet it runs as smoothly along as the songs in the soundtrack. The humour is as subtle as Juno isn't. The drama marks it out as a brave social discussion of a subject usually treated with scorn. When comedies as smart as this come along, you need to appreciate them.

Follow me on Twitter: @crunro

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