Heartfelt ‘Juno’ an original comedy

David Hohwald

By David Hohwald

Staff Reporter

“Juno” is Jason Reitman’s follow-up film to the popular 2005 feature “Thank You for Smoking,” and he manages to create a well-crafted and touching comedy.

Diablo Cody, a Hollywood newcomer, delivers a great script with some well-developed characters and a heaping dose of quirk.

The cast is also full of interesting actors and actresses, and Ellen Page gets her chance to shine in the title role of Juno MacGuff.

All that holds the film back from being a great comedy is its overly quirky nature that is less-than-real at moments.

“Juno” is receiving plenty of attention for its screenplay and for good reason.

Cody’s first foray into screenwriting is very impressive. She takes the solid concept of a precocious teen who gets pregnant and runs with it.

As comedies go, this one is plenty funny, but what really separates it is the heart. Cody’s characters are all fully fleshed out, and her care for each of them is evident. Juno is one of the most interesting characters of the year.

Cody’s hyper-stylized dialogue, though, is hit or miss.

When it works, it is fun, engaging and pleasing to the ear, but when it doesn’t, it is just the opposite.

The first 10 minutes of the film don’t work in this regard.

Phrases like “home skillet” and “izzle”-endings to words abound, but she finds her stride early and rides it straight to the end of the film.

Best of all, though, her script defies expectations, and this results in a truly great story.

This script gives the cast a lot to work with, and fortunately Reitman collected a group of talented people to do it justice.

Page has by far the biggest role as Juno, and she delivers one of the best performances of the year.

She moves from snarky to tender with grace and fluidity, and nothing feels forced.

Page makes Juno engaging and fun but also real, and it may be the best female lead performance of the year. She’s not the only bright point; her supporting cast is uniformly good. Michael Cera is solid as the awkward Paulie Bleeker, father of the child, and J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are both good as Juno’s father and stepmother.

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are also effective as the Lorings, the prospective adoptive parents of Juno’s child.

One of the most interesting aspects of “Juno,” and certainly the most easy to see at first glance, is the distinctive visual style of Reitman’s set design and cinematography.

He evokes Wes Anderson in his quirky sets and the way he helps define characters through the way they dress and where they live.

In fact, the visual cue he uses to separate the four parts to the film is lifted almost directly from “Rushmore.”

This unusual style is fun to watch and adds a lot to the characters, but at points it manages to overshadow the film itself and ends up doing more harm than good.

In general, though, the style is very effective.

“Juno” might be the best comedy of the year. It’s certainly funny on a variety of levels, but it also does much more.

Cody and Reitman tell an interesting story with real characters, and the result is a movie that draws the viewer in and does not let go.

At times the quirk factor is too high and the movie pushes it too far, but the end product is still a touching film with a lot of heart.

“Juno” is a film that will appeal to many viewers for a variety of reasons, and it deserves to be seen before it leaves theaters.