Juno, the rare comedy to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, marks the 15th anniversary of its 2007 theatrical release.
Diablo Cody wrote one of the funniest screenplays of 2007. Fifteen years after its release, Juno still holds up as one of the funniest movies released in the early 2000s even as it plays differently in 2022. In terms of casting, it could definitely be better on the diversity front but this is where we were at in 2007.
You cannot discuss the film without mentioning its rotoscoped opening sequence. It’s an impressive animated display and a lot of hard work went into its creation.
In the film, Juno MacGuff (Elliot Page) learns that she’s had an unplanned pregnancy with classmate Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). While she initially decides to nip it in the bud at the abortion clinic, she suddenly changes her mind. Best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) soon helps Juno with finding a set of parents to adopt the unborn child. They find them in Mark (Jason Bateman) and Vanessa (Jennifer Garner). Juno meets with them and discovers a shared love of music with Mark. Drama arises as things continue to play out–we learn Mark is not ready to be a father.
Juno’s parents, Mac (J.K. Simmons) and Bren (Allison Janney) could not be more supportive. They could have kicked her out of the house but they didn’t. Mac comes with her to meet the prospective couple. Bren comes with her to the doctor’s office appoints. Again, I’ve got to credit Diablo Cody for writing a brilliant and witty Oscar-winning screenplay. There’s language here that might have caught on at the time but never quite found their way into the English vernacular–at least not in my circles.
Jason Reitman is a brilliant director but there’s a universe where he does not even direct this film. It’s not so much because of decisions that he made. Rather, it’s because of the fact that his first film, Thank You for Smoking, hadn’t been released at the time. I love Reitman’s approach to casting the film–he decided on screen tests rather than individual auditions. When one considers how important chemistry is to the film, this is the best decision by far.
Musically speaking, the soundtrack is notable for how it features Kimya Dawson as a solo artist or as a part of either Antsy Pants or The Moldy Peaches. Composer Mateo Messina manages to incorporate the songs into the film’s incidental score. Both the songs and score are catchy enough to where they are still playing in your head after the credits finish rolling. There’s a reason why it became one of the bestselling soundtrack albums at the time.
Theatrical releases were different in 2007. Well, moviegoing was different back then, too. The studio launched the film in seven NY/LA theaters before slowly expanding until going wide on December 25. That’s not to say studios don’t platform films anymore but they certainly put them on VOD and physical media sooner than later. It earned $231 million worldwide against a $6.5 million production budget. You’re never going to see box office grosses like this for an indie film ever again–not with how things are currently progressing. Juno is one of those films that I was able to see prior to its local release at the time. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was 2007’s version of Little Miss Sunshine–the rare comedy that gets an Oscar nomination.
It’s rather fascinating to watch the film in 2022 especially because it adds another layer to Elliot Page’s Oscar nomination. Knowing what we know now, this film features spectacular acting on their part. If you’ve been living in a cave, Page has since come out as transgender. Having gone through puberty while dealing with gender issues, I can imagine what Page must have been experiencing on set at the time.
Upon the film’s release, both pro-choice and anti-choice groups found a reason to cheer it on. At the end of the day, this is a film about a teenage woman facing a really tough decision and having to deal with adulthood at the same time. Juno has to make a decision for herself. Paulie doesn’t really have a say because Juno decides almost immediately to just nip it in the bud. Things change at the clinic, of course. Political leaders are not the people to be making this decision as Dr. Oz recently argued during the Pennsylvania debate for U.S. Senate. This is why it is so important for a woman to have the right to make these decisions. If she’s not ready, she’s not ready. In the case of Juno, she isn’t ready but decides to go through with it and gives the child up for adoption.
There has been an unfortunate wave of anti-abortion bills in recent years. It was enough that it led to studios saying they would not film in George if the bill got enacted. Some filmmakers ended up moving their films elsewhere. In the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, studios are stepping up to ensure their employees have the healthcare coverage they need. Meanwhile, Diablo Cody offered some thoughts in 2019 in light of the attack on women’s rights:
“I don’t even know if I would have written a movie like Juno if I had known that the world was going to spiral into this hellish alternate reality that we now seem to be stuck in.”
In addition to Cody’s Oscar win, the film earned nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Actress.
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
SCREENWRITER: Diablo Cody
CAST: Elliot Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, Rainn Wilson
Fox Searchlight released Juno in theaters on December 5, 2007. Grade: 5/5
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