The charm of Juno lies less in the story but in the performances themselves. The story isn’t that unusual or dramatic. The film itself, even though it was one of the “blueprints” for the indie genre, with its hand-drawn titles and unique soundtrack, isn’t even that “quirky.” The key to the success and the likability of the film is purely in the fantastic choice of each actor for their roles.
The key to this argument isn’t actually Ellen Page. Page does a brilliant job and holds the film really well as bolshy, strong-willed but loving Juno, but there are much better performances found in her supporting cast. The best examples lie with Michael Cera and Jason Bateman. Michael Cera’s sensitive and geeky character has become a hinderance to him more than a help now, almost becoming a parody of himself because he has played that part so often, but here it was still fresh and even with a re-view, you can see why he fits that kind of role so well. He feels like a complete mismatch to Juno and to think that he managed to make her pregnant is played on brilliantly a couple of times throughout the movie.
Jason Bateman is constantly surprising me with the roles he appears in. I completely forgot he was in this movie and that his character goes from cool and “put-upon” to creepy and weird without you seeing it coming. I really rate Bateman and love him in the “average, normal guy” roles he plays in films where strange and extraordinary things are happening, Hancock being a prime example. To see him play almost the villain character is great.
You add to these performances the great casting of Jennifer Garner who you end up siding with at the end of the film after thinking she was the hard-ass, crazy one throughout and the genius decision to have J.K Simmons as Juno’s Dad. I have yet to find a film where I haven’t been impressed with J.K Simmons, even if the rest of the film is poor. I hope they either cast him as J. Jonah Jameson in the new Spiderman franchise or just leave him out altogether.
The great performances are what makes this film better than most other indie, quirky films that have arrived in their droves since. The style of film has been done so often that it has seemingly become a bit of a cliché in itself. Any film with two likable stars, strange and unusual title sequences and an obscure soundtrack seems to be aping the unexpected success of Juno and when you re-watch this film, you can clearly see where it all began.
Overall, even though this film has been replicated and imitated loads of times since, it still holds up and stands the test of time. The performances are what makes this film so appealing, particularly Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and J.K Simmons. It’s a shame that we’ve now seen so many of these “indie” movies that they don’t feel that “indie” anymore.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)