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MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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“This is a night of discovery for you,” Jason Reitman beamed proudly after the screening of his new comedy, Juno. The film had its Starz Denver Film Fest “Big Night” audience laughing all the way through, so much so that it was easy to miss subsequent lines in the hubbub. He explained that not only was this audience getting a chance to discover the actress playing the title character, Juno, but we were also getting our first taste of new screenwriter Diablo Cody’s work, whom he said wrote the screenplay in seven weeks at a Starbucks in a Target store and has “the closest thing to raw talent of anyone I have ever worked with.”

Jason Reitman was proud to introduce Ellen Page
Jason Reitman was proud to introduce Ellen Page

He and I both discovered Diablo Cody a while ago; she worked as a stripper in Minneapolis, created a blog about her experiences, and turned it into a fun book on the limits of what people will do for fun, money, and experience. This led to her discovery by Hollywood and now this screenplay about a 16-year-old girl who gets pregnant and decides to give her baby to a couple who wants to adopt. The script is packed with humor and a dash of pathos; the film felt both more savvy and less self-aware than the teen angst-driven Napoleon Dynamite. There’s less laughing at people and more laughing with them.

Juno, played by the lovely and extremely talented Ellen Page, is an ordinary sixteen-year-old who acts on a year-long crush, with big consequences. Michael Cera plays the object of her affections, who tries to take his cues from the independent and collected teen. At first she decides to seek an abortion; then she hears that her fetus probably has fingernails by this time in her pregnancy, and in the clinic waiting room a building symphony of fingernail scratching and clicking and picking like that classic percussive scene in Delicatessen sends her right back out the door of the clinic before she’s carried out her plan.

Instead, she carries out her pregnancy, and she and her best friend find an ad for a perfect couple looking to adopt a baby in the Penny Saver. Her family is supportive in all the important ways, but the couple turn out to have more problems than their McMansion can hold. Everyone does the right things in the end, but there’s nothing cliched or sappy about any of the resolutions.

This is a great, compassionate contemporary comedy about how people really behave, with a wonderful script and fantastic performances all around (from Michael Cera and J.K. Simmons in particular, as well as Allison Janney, Olivia Thirlby, and Jason Bateman).