Rating 3½

Directed by Jason Reitman

Written by Diablo Cody

Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J K Simmons and Olivia Thirlby

This quirky teenage comedy has been heavily hyped since its initially limited release into American cinemas at the beginning of December 2007. It has arrived in Britain with a £127 million box office gross so far and a best actress Academy Award nomination for Ellen Page, as well as nominations for best film and best director.

Page plays Juno MacGuff, a smartass 16-year-old who gets pregnant after having sex with her boyfriend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Unable to go through with an abortion, she decides to offer the unborn baby to a childless couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The film then follows the course of her pregnancy as she discovers lessons about herself, her boyfriend, her parents and the couple adopting her baby.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes I was worried I would find the film irritating. Juno’s use of her own teenage slang, plus what seemed to be the determinedly quirky style of the film, was bordering on the annoying. It brought to mind ‘Brick’, a film I thought was so smugly self-satisfied with its own twist on film noir that it soon disappeared up its own backside. Perhaps I am being unfair to that film and should give it another chance, but in the case of ‘Juno’ I was proved wrong almost immediately. What I feared might be arch quirkiness quickly became a very funny, very warm-hearted and very perceptive film.

The acting is uniformly excellent throughout. I have not seen Jennifer Garner before, but I would hazard a guess her performance here is a long way removed from the likes of ‘Elektra’. Allison Janney (from ‘The West Wing’) and J K Simmons are wonderful in relatively small roles as Juno’s parents. Ellen Page’s Oscar nomination is fully justified. As was correctly pointed out to me, she is reminiscent of a younger Linda Cardellini.

It has been mentioned that ‘Juno’ bears a passing resemblance to a South Korean comedy called ‘Jeni, Juno’, concerning a teenage couple who try to keep a pregnancy secret. Screenwriter Brook Busey-Hunt (aka Diablo Cody) has said she was unaware of this film and any vague similarities are purely coincidental.

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