Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney
(PG-13, 91 min.)
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage." Anais Nin
It’s not just witty dialogue and a knockout performance by its elfin star, but the unmistakable ring of authenticity that propels this independent film into a mainstream contender. And it is further evidence that comedies are perhaps the most effective medium to deal with serious subjects, lulling us into a receptive affability that opens the mind.
So much better than being preached at, don’t you think?
Sixteen-year-old Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) has just confirmed that she is pregnant via a whimsical moment of passion with her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Not one to wallow in self-pity, she promptly tells best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), and Paulie himself, and then sets up her appointment at the Women’s Center. Is it the punk receptionist who has all the bureaucratic empathy of a postal employee or her classmate picketing outside who informs Juno that her unborn baby already has a heartbeat and fingernails that makes her turn her heels and face the even more difficult circumstance of informing her parents and continuing the pregnancy?
Screenwriter Diablo Cody milks a few laughs as Dad (J.K Simmons) remarks that he didn’t think Paulie “had it in him,’ and Stepmom (Allison Janney) laments that the bad news wasn’t something more reasonable such as a D.W.I or school expulsion. But after these rather clichéd beginnings, the script starts to find itself and real people emerge on screen.
I think the case can be made that this is both a pro-life and a pro-choice film in the fine tradition of Waitress and Bella, if you accept that the pro-choice position actually allows for both choices to be considered. Juno’s choice to put the baby up for adoption is wrought with all the difficulties of unwed motherhood set against one of the cruelest of all subcultures – the American high school.
She continues to attend her local institution, the crowded hallways opening for her and her blossoming belly not so much like the parting of the Red Sea, but more like medieval peasants separating themselves from a plague victim. “I am a cautionary whale,” Juno explains with typical acerbic wit and deadpan delivery. In fact, she combines the qualities of two of literature’s most beloved characters: the gutsy earnestness of To Kill a Mockingbird’s Scout and the ironic detachment of Holden Caufield from Catcher in the Rye.
For all her maturity, though, Juno is certainly more girl/child than woman. It is, after all, Sunny D and not Perrier water that she gulps to get herself through three pregnancy kits in one long morning of hopeful denial. And close as she is to motherhood, her father stills calls her by her pet name, Junebug, a moniker she shares with an equally pregnant Amy Adams, a girl/woman as thrilled with her condition as Juno is not.
As Juno gains its stride, the underlying humanity of the characters emerges in surprising ways, and the relationship between father and daughter, though but briefly sketched, is one of the most compelling. At the hospital Juno’s father tells her that she will be there again, “on her own terms,” and more is said in those four little words than all the well-worn screeds on love or feminism.
Stepmother Bren may smell of the nail salon where she works, but she is the one who diligently sews the elastic bands onto Juno’s jeans. And it is Bren who sets an uppity ultra sound technician straight. Anyway, how could I not like someone who researches all the dog breeds and settles on two cuddly Weimaraners as her inevitable choice?
Accidental teenage fathers are well represented by Michael Cera’s Paulie, the befuddled man out in Juno’s well planned arrangements, her assumption that he is both uncommitted and not emotionally involved a long time in being laid to rest. Jennifer Garner shows her softer side as the adoptive mother to be, while husband Jason Bateman reveals a more complex response to the juggernaut of parenthood.
Some have compared Juno to last year’s heralded Little Miss Sunshine, but they couldn’t be farther from the mark. That was cheap brass; this is the real thing. Cardboard characters and contrived plot are washed away by Juno’s genuineness, its real humanity, and vulgarity is replaced with true wit.
A must see for discriminating filmgoers.
One of the many sacrifices Juno must make is that night of all nights – the Junior Prom. In her town, part of the tradition is a dinner out at the Japanese Steakhouse, Benihana’s, where “highly skilled chefs present and prepare all entrees at a hibachi table, around which up to eight guests are seated to watch a fast-paced performance of chopping and juggling as their dinner emerges.”
Now you can duplicate that steakhouse experience right in your own home with this delightful Shrimp Appetizer. Enjoy it even if Juno cannot.
Benihana Ginger-Cream Shrimp
- 5 each large shrimp
- 2 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp soybean oil (I use veg oil)
- 1 tsp heavy cream
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/2 lemon
Heat griddle to 350. Sprinkle shrimp with salt to taste. Oil griddle. Place shrimp on griddle and saute about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from griddle. Mix melted butter with heavy cream. Cut shrimp into bite size pieces and dot with mixture made from butter and cream. Sprinkle with parsley and return to griddle. Cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. Squeeze juice from lemon. Serve with ginger sauce.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (or tamari sauce)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 small piece fresh ginger root or
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Combine all ingredients in blender container and process until smooth. Makes 6 servings, about 2-1/2 Tb. each. .
Recipe Source: Japanese Steakhouse Recipes