Let each of you look not to your own interests,
but to the interests of others…
Touted by some critics as the female answer to Knocked Up, director Jason Reitman and scriptwriter Diablo Cody’s is a far better film, presenting us with sparking dialogue and a teenager determined to do the right thing after her tryst with her boyfriend leads to her pregnancy. Even before the Oscar nominations Juno had left the confines of the art house circuit, turning out to be this year’s “little indie that could.”
Juno McGuff (Ellen Page) is a teenager who will take no guff from the nosy young pharmacy clerk where she tests herself to see if she is pregnant. She hesitantly breaks the bad news to her father and step-mother, Dad, or Mac, (J.K. Simmons) and Bren (Allison Janney), and their response is surprise but caring support. (When she goes upstairs to her room, the elder McGuffs share their confusion: Mac: “” Did you see that coming? “ Bren: “Yeah… but I was hoping she was expelled, or into hard drugs.” Mac: “Or DWI… anything but this” .
The “anything but this” turns out to be something that Juno handles with as much maturity as any parent could expect. She tells boyfriend Paulie (Michael Cera) who blinks and passively tells her whatever she wants to do, he will agree to. She considers abortion, even visiting an abortion clinic outside of which a pro-life friend is picketing, but from the moment when the receptionist signs her in to the uneasy atmosphere in the waiting room, everything seems to rule out such a solution.
When she talks with best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), the latter suggests that they look in the want ads of the Penny Saver. “” They have ‘Desperately Seeking Spawn,’ right next to the pet ads,” Leah says. And sure enough, there it is that Juno finds the names of the couple wanting to adopt a baby. Mac accompanies his daughter when they journey to the suburban home of Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). Each set is anxious to impress the other, so while Mac and Vanessa talk Juno spots the guitar in Mark’s den, and the two discover a common passion for music. He had been a band and still harbors the desire to see if he could make it in the music world. Mac and Juno leave convinced that the baby to come will have a good home.
There are of course complications, with one event that seems to rule out Juno’s plan to give the baby to the couple. However, in a touching moment when Juno and Leah are shopping at the mall, the former spies Vanessa engaged with some small children. Observing how the woman so thoroughly enjoys interacting with the children, Juno is reassured that she will be the right mother for the infant. There is a conversation with Mac about true love that lasts, which leads her to a realization about her relationship with Paulie that is heart-warming, and so true to life. Juno might not always be the model we would wish for a Christian teenager, but there is a depth to her character and potential for growth that we see in very few films about teenagers.
There will be spoilers in the following.
1) What do you think of Juno as a character? What do you like most? Anything that bothers you, such as her saucy remarks? What do you think of the following: “Yeah, I’m a legend. You know, they call me the cautionary whale” or “Can’t we just like kick this old school. You know, like I stick the baby in a basket, send it your way, like Moses and the reeds?” How might this be part of her coping or defense mechanism?
2) Compare Mac and Bren to the parents usually found in teenage comedies. Not the usual dunces, are they? (Remember the way adults are portrayed in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off?)
3) How might a lesser film dealt with the relationship between Juno and Mark?
4) Were you surprised at what happened between Vanessa and Mark? At Juno’s decision?
5) How does Leah stack up as a best friend? How have your own friends provided support for you during times of trial—and vice versa?
6) What do you think of Mac’s answer to Juno about lasting love? Of her decision concerning Paulie.