Under the direction of Jason Reitman and with a script by Diablo Cody, Juno breaks the mold of usual comedies. The film is so different from most films that there is very little doubt that it is something special. What begins as a somewhat screwball of a comedy turns out to be so much more. The characters are so well-developed that we come to love them in all of their screwballness. There is very little wonder that Roger Ebert said that Juno “is just about the best movie of the year.”
Ellen Page is Juno MacGuff. Page, 20 at the time, is brilliant, delivering Cody’s witting lines with class and style, all while making a theater full of people fall in love with her. Michael Cera is Paulie Bleeker, a tall, skinny, track runner, and Juno’s best friend. Juno convinces Paulie that they should experiment with sex. While Paulie is not as eager as Juno is, he complies and, of course, Juno gets pregnant. Teenage pregnancy is not usually a comedic moment. Reitman’s film, however, handles it with grace that portions of our society do not.
Juno decides to have an abortion. When she arrives at the clinic, a classmate of hers is protesting solo against abortions. Reitman is very careful here. The film is not about abortions – anti or pro. The film is about a teenage girl coming to terms with all of the changes in her life. While in the clinic, she is overwhelmed by the waiting room, and leaves quickly. She decides to have the child.
She knows, as a 16-year-old high school student, that she cannot raise this child, speaking to her maturity. Juno and her friend Leah (Olivia Thirby) look through ads in the Penny Saver for adoptive parents: “They have ‘Desperately Seeking Spawn’ right next to the pet ads.”
It is through the Penny Saver, that Juno finds Mark and Vanessa Loring, played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Gardener. The couple lives well, and they seem to be in love and a happy couple struggling with infertility. Juno decides they are the right couple and plans are made for them to adopt the baby. Juno connects with Mark, visiting him after school, even though her stepmother Bren (Allison Janney) cautions her about boundaries.
During one of those visits, Mark tells Juno that he is planning on leaving Vanessa. He suggests that he may have feelings for Juno, who does not share his feelings and is more concerned about making sure the baby grows up in a happy home. Juno storms out, unsure what to think.
Juno heads up at the convenience store, Honey and Milk the sign reads on two sides of the store. Juno is lying on the hood of her van staring up sty the stars pondering and discerning her next steps. Honey and Milk brings to mind the Old Testament proclamation for the Hebrew people to go to the land of milk and honey. The Promised Land. The land where all troubles, pains, and sorrows will be no more.
Of course, the land of milk and honey does not have to be an actual, physical land. It can be a spiritual state of mind. It is outside of the Honey and Milk store that Juno comes to understand what she has to do. She scribbles a note on the back of a Jiffy Lube receipt, drives back to the Loring’s, leaves the note on their front porch, rings the doorbell, and drives off.
The note, which Vanessa framed and hung in the nursery, read, “Vanessa – If you’re still in, I’m still in. – Juno.” In an earlier scene, Juno asks her father Mac (J. K. Simmons), “I need to know that it’s possible for two people to stay happy together forever.” It is clear that Juno is no longer trying to be funny and witty. She has real emotions that she is taking seriously. She needs to know if love is possible for herself and for her baby.
Her dad answers, “The best thing you can do is to find someone who loves you for exactly what you are.”
Juno has an epiphany outside of the Honey and Milk, brining her to her land of milk and honey, that Vanessa already loves the unborn baby for what and who he is. And she has the epiphany that she loves Paulie for who and what he is.
Juno finds her promised land.
The film is one of those rare films that has no scenes that are out-of-place or extra. The story flows like a smooth river, heading in one, clear direction, making the film not only unique but refreshing. It is a film that is non-judgemental, being sure not to make a statement, but telling a story of real teenagers in the real world with grace. Reminding us all who live in the real world that we too can treat the unexpected things that happen around us with grace.