Heart Shines Through the Gears
There are movies that you watch and can see every trick it's playing -- the seams, the gears, what it's trying to accomplish with its dialog, its music, and so forth. This usually causes me to resent a film, because it knocks me out of my suspension of disbelief, but once in a while a movie like this comes along and works wonders anyway. That's Juno.
The movie practically reeks of calculation, and yet it's endearing, and I got wrapped up in it, laughed at a lot of the comedy, and was with it all the way through to its optimistic ending. I'll give a lot of credit to the actors, a skilled and likeable bunch starting with its main star, Ellen Page, who takes a smart-mouth character, a teenager who finds out she's pregnant, and plays her like a real person, flawed and confused on the inside but in no way ready to drop her defenses. Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, and Olivia Thirlby also all deserve credit for their warm contributions here, all believable despite being dressed up in a lot of quirk.
I found Diablo Cody's screenplay a bit self-conscious, and Jason Reitman's direction a tad twee, and, yes, I got the faint whiff of Wes Anderson-style derivation, but an Anderson movie is about depression and disappointment, and Juno turns out to be about hope and understanding. Everyone's heart is in the right place here, and maybe that's why the movie wins out. (Capsule review.)
(Released by Fox Searchlight and rated "PG-13" for mature thematic material, sexual content and language.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.