I didn’t need raving film festival reviews or any kind of early buzz to let me know Juno was going to be a good movie. Simply knowing it was a comedy centered on pre-teen pregnancy starring Ellen Page and directed by Thank You for Smoking writer/director Jason Reitman was more than enough for me to believe this would be a movie for me. While all that remained true, my personal disagreement with Reitman’s take on a certain character took a little bit away from the film for me.
Page plays Juno, a high school teenager who finds herself pregnant at the very beginning of the film. The father – Michael Cera – you know, the skinny kid from Superbad. George Michael from “Arrested Development”. Yeah, you’re with me. Well, Juno is something of a “Dawson’s Creek” kind of teen, at least as far as her vocabulary goes. As far as her maturity level, she is way beyond her 16 years of age and she is ready to take this pregnancy head-on after her first bout with initial doubt.
The decision is to give the baby up for adoption and she finds herself the perfect family in the Nickel Classifieds. Mark and Vanessa, played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, appear to be the perfect suburban couple. After meeting Juno it seems to be a perfect match, but nothing is ever perfect as this movie certainly points out giving you plenty of opportunities for laughter, sadness and disappointment.
Juno is a film that is 100-percent about growing up and knowing when to do so. I am not sure if that is entirely what Diablo Cody meant with her screenplay, but that is what Reitman has turned it into. Reitman had his first child during production of the film, as did Jennifer Garner and even Jason Bateman’s wife had a child while the film was being made.
I mention this only because while we are watching Juno be forced to grow up sooner than she should, Reitman also connects us with Mark and Vanessa. Early on Vanessa comes off as a controlling and stubborn wife while Mark is the likable good guy that everyone would love to know. Mark’s life has been tossed into the corner and asked to be forgotten. Through twists in the plot Reitman tries to flip this on us and in my eyes paints an off-target picture of Mark while giving Vanessa a pass, all in the name of growing up. It’s an unfair portrait and an idea that wasn’t fleshed out enough for it to stick.
Don’t get me wrong, the film has so much heart and so many laughs it is hard not to love, but this little plot twist simply seemed like the film was telling me that everyone needs to grow up by a certain age; you must get married, you must have kids and you simply must act your age. While I am not one to condone 80-year-old men to act as free-wheeling teens, I am hardly someone that would ever make such a blanket assumption on all of society, which is what it seems like Reitman did in this film.
I definitely recommend many of you see Juno, it is a film that you are sure to enjoy. However, I can’t help but wonder if there are more people like me out there that believe Reitman’s portrayal of Mark was way off base.