What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this well-written, warmhearted comedy tackles a very serious subject: teen pregnancy. It has real bite, as well as frank sex talk and some swearing, which makes it iffy for younger viewers. But there's plenty here to appeal to older teens -- not the least of which is Superbad's Michael Cera, who co-stars. Unlike a lot of teen-centric Hollywood fare, the film doesn't condescend. Even its treatment of teen pregnancy, which may appear cavalier at first, comes across as sensitive and mature in the end.
What's the story?
JUNO's 16-year-old protagonist, Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), is a handful: She's mouthy and opinionated, disdains authority, thinks she knows everything, pops ADD drug Adderall, and has casual sex. And if she has to take on pregnancy to complete her journey into adulthood, then so be it. After a tryst with best friend Paulie (Michael Cera) gets her knocked up, Juno weighs her options and decides to have the baby -- not so she can keep it, but so she can make another couple happy. Picking the right candidates doesn't take too long; she finds Yuppie pair Mark and Vanessa Loring's (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) ad in the PennySaver. After one visit, she's convinced they're the perfect grown-ups. But while Juno wrestles with how she truly feels about the experience and -- equally importantly -- about Paulie, it's clear that the adults she thinks have it all figured out may be just as lost as she is.
Is it any good?
How do I love thee, Juno? Let me count the ways. For starters, your 16-year-old protagonist is a mouthy handful, yet she's also smart and soulful, warm and witty, and she actively searches for answers -- which makes her a refreshing character amid many other movies' disinterested, disaffected teens. She's cut from Gilmore Girls cloth, older than her years but still unsure of her direction. The beauty of the movie is how relationships that initially seem clear-cut -- Juno and her parents, Juno and Vanessa, Juno and Mark, Mark and Vanessa and, finally, Juno and Paulie -- grow more complex and, as a result, more fascinating. For all her bravado, it's soon apparent that Juno really is still a kid when she tells her father, "I don't really know what kind of girl I am." She's been so distant and sardonic -- she says things like "I'm a legend. They call me the cautionary whale" -- that when she breaks down, it's all the more moving.
Credit Page for her pitch-perfect performance as a maverick teen who's so unlike many of her peers and yet very much like them, too. And the rest of the cast is also strong. Jason Bateman is stupendous, and in fact, everyone appears to be on their best game. Screenwriter Diablo Cody's dialogue snaps and scores; her people sound and feel real but are infinitely more interesting than we are. The only quibble, and it's a small one, may be that Juno sometimes feels self-consciously cool. But if that's all there is to offend, then may moviegoers have more "offensive" films like this in their future.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about teen sex and pregnancy. Can you think of other movies and TV shows that have tackled these subjects? How does this film approach the topics differently? Does Juno's journey seem realistic? What about how she handles her situation? Do you think things would be likely to work out similarly in real life? What are your family's beliefs about teen sex? Are teens and parents in agreement or not?