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Juno: Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Review

Juno: Two-Disc Special Edition

April 14, 2008

Director: Jason Reitman,
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby,

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DVD Review

Juno was The Little Miss Sunshine (2006) of 2007 – the little independent film that could. Once the studio realized that it had a successful crowd-pleaser on its hands, the film was promoted from the art-house circuit to the multiplexes. Actress Ellen Page and first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody became the film’s breakout stars garnering the lion’s share of critical raves and awards with Page getting an Independent Spirit Award and Cody an Academy Award. Now that all of the dust has settled, Juno can be reassessed to see if it really has the staying power and substance to cut through all of the hype and stand-up to the inevitable backlash.

16-year-old Juno (Page) finds out that she’s pregnant after having sex with her friend Paul Bleeker (Cera). At first, she wants to have an abortion but gets cold feet while in the clinic waiting room. She decides to have the child and give it up for adoption. Juno finds the ideal couple: Mark (Bateman) and Vanessa (Garner) who live in a sterile-looking house in a sterile neighbourhood – a sharp contrast to the warm, cluttered, lived-in look of Juno’s house.

Juno and Mark make an immediate connection with the same kind of dry, sarcastic humour and over a love of music – sharing their music tastes with each other during their first meeting when they do an impromptu jam of a Hole’s “Doll Parts,” which is a nice touch. They become friends and bond over who is a better horror film maestro, Herschell Gordon Lewis or Dario Argento. The rest of the film follows Juno’s pregnancy and how it affects those around her, including the prospective parents and her own who are, understandably, less than thrilled with what has happened.

The first thing that hits you is Cody’s stylized dialogue with words like “home skillet”, “pork swords”, “Honest to blog,” and all sorts of colourful slang reminiscent the Coen brothers early films, if they were a twentysomething woman. Juno also has the kind of attention to detail and hermetically-sealed world reminiscent of Wes Anderson or even Napoleon Dynamite (2004). For example, there’s Juno’s hamburger phone or Bleeker’s love of orange Tic Tacs. It is these specific, quirky details that stay with you.

Ellen Page brings a ferocious, precocious energy to the role that is a fantastic balancing act of being endearing and wickedly funny. It’s extremely difficult to imagine anyone else playing this role. She handles the stylized dialogue with ease but it isn’t a one-note performance as she also deals with the dramatic weight of being pregnant and Mark’s trepidation of being a father.

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are excellent as the Yuppie parents-to-be. At first, they seem a little too perfect and as the film progresses, the cracks begin to show. Michael Cera is also note-perfect as Juno’s friend and potential love interest. He brings a quirky, slightly awkward energy that he perfected on the Arrested Development TV show. He’s kind of geeky but in an endearing way and you can see what Juno sees in him and their relationship is a quietly affecting one.

Director Jason Reitman beats the sophomore slump jinx with Juno. While Thank You For Smoking (2006) showed promise, he really hits it out of the park with this film. Juno is one of those wonderful little slice-of-life films that is engaging and moving in its own unassuming way. It’s the kind of film that you can easily see becoming a comfort movie that you want to watch over and over again.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary by director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody. The first thing that you notice when listening to Cody talking is how well Ellen Page mimicked her way of speaking. Reitman tends to dominate the track and, not surprisingly, talks about filmmaking aspects like the casting of minor roles, the attention to details for the sets, how he shot certain scenes, and so on. Cody offers her occasional two cents with her best being her shout-out to the much beloved TV show My So-Called Life in one particular scene. This is pretty decent track filled with lots of anecdotal stories and production details.

Also included are 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary by Reitman and Cody. We meet Juno’s crazy next-door neighbour. There’s also a different introduction to Juno’s family. We see Mark and Vanessa’s first attempt to adopt. There’s also an amusing bit where Juno has a solo gig and sings a song about getting pregnant. These are all good scenes and Reitman explains why there were cut.

There is the obligatory “Gag Reel,” a hilarious collection of blown lines and goofs with Bateman making Page break character time and time again.

The “Gag Take” is an odd scene where Rainn Wilson and Reitman get into it with a mock heated argument.

“Cast and Crew Jam” features the cast and crew members rockin’ out to a song in this mock music video.

There are “Screen Tests” for Ellen Page and Michael Cera. In the scene they do together you already see them in character and displaying excellent chemistry. There is also a test with Page and Olivia Thirlby and one with Page and J.K. Simmons as well.

“Way Beyond ‘Our’ Maturity Level” takes a look at the characters of Bleeker, Juno and her best friend Leah with interviews with the actors that inhabit them. Diablo Cody talks about how they are based on people in her life.

“Diablo Cody is Totally Boss” is a profile of this novice screenwriter who got her start writing a blog and got noticed by a film producer. Reitman recalls his initial impressions of the script and the cast gush about its “unique voice.” During filming, Reitman allowed her on the set because it was her vision and she would write dialogue when needed.

“Jason Reitman for Shizz” takes a look at the director. The producers gush about how he was the right fit for the material. He talks about establishing the right tone and how he shared the same vision for the film as Cody.

“Honest to Blog!: Creating Juno” features Cody and Reitman talking about how the film came together. She credits her stylized dialogue to spending lots of time on the Internet. Cody also talks about how she came up with the idea for the story. They talk about specific scenes and her knack for depicting an unconventional family. Reitman talks about how he discovered Ellen page and cast the other roles.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 95%

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