Thursday, January 24, 2008

Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

***½
USA



A cutesy-quirky, aggressively self-satisfied then aggressively heartwarming indie elevated to the realm of the bearable and even genuinely affecting, mostly by an ensemble of exceedingly clever, committed actors. Ellen Page plays the caustic but inwardly fragile teen impregnated by a dork and deciding to donate her bundle to a yuppie couple with half-hidden issues.

There are blips - more, distorting oversights and misjudgments - both in the writing and direction: no one - and certainly not a 16-year-old - says things like "You're acting shockingly cavalier!"; no one's been put off abortion by 20 seconds' worth of clicking pens etc. The soundtrack is stuffed with lite-indie chick-rock, and several costuming and set design choices feel transported from a Wes Anderson movie onto a habitat that is unnatural to them.

But the quirks which are jarring to begin with are pushed to the background in the second act and appear to have faded entirely by the third. Most of what's implausible about the plotting is gotten out of the way early, so that the situations and conversations start feeling more and more organic.

Even in the earlier, sketchier sections however, Page demonstrates an uncanny gift for selling unspeakable dialogue as her own words and building from mostly snarky scraps a sensitive, human-like portrait of a scarred, guarded premature adult. And the supporting actors are wonderfully subdued.

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