by Nathan Ridings
Sometimes, a film has one moment that seems to take all of the best parts of that film, such as the writing, soundtrack, pace, acting, and cinematography, and somehow puts them into sync, creating a perfect moment. This is the final monologue in Trainspotting, or the rap scene in Short Term 12. These are the scenes I relish in movies, the ones that find a way to grab your heart and refuse to relinquish it until the moment is done. This is Juno.
Juno begins as a high school girl (Ellen Page) learns that she is pregnant. With this, the story begins. The narrative incorporates several supporting characters, including her father (J.K. Simmons), stepmother (Allison Janney), friend (Olivia Thirlby), *friend* (Michael Cera), and hopeful adoptive parents (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). The story follows Juno as she both internally and externally tries to navigate this situation.
I adore Juno. Because of this, I’d like to get my critiques out of the way as soon as possible. My only major complaints with the film are that, near the end, the conflicts sometimes seem to resolve themselves rather than the characters resolving the conflicts, and the dialogue, while genuinely and consistently funny, occasionally sacrifices authenticity for wittiness. However, given the movie’s style and goal, these are easily forgivable.
The soundtrack is marvelous. Each song creates a singular and memorable moment and gives the audience additional insight into the characters. In addition to aligning with the scenes nearly perfectly, the songs are independently fantastic, and they simultaneously capture and define the essence of the film. The mechanical parts of the film, while not the most successful or memorable parts, are very well done. The cinematography and lighting are pleasing to the eye but mainly unnoticeable. The environment is clear and used mainly to illustrate the characters in a visual way. Objects, such as the hamburger phone or the one musical room in the white house, are used creatively to illustrate character attitudes or situations.
The characters are easily the best part of Juno. Each of the performances are individually stellar, though Page delivers the best performance in the film and possibly of her career. She constructs a truly complex, flawed, wonderful character, and it is nearly impossible to not adore her within the first five minutes. As for the supporting characters, it’s hard to say who is the most successful. They’re all fantastic as the characters they’re portraying, and each performance is individual and memorable. This is a film about characters, emotions, and how the two interact, and the cast support that in the best possible way.
As you can see, there are several objectively great things, as well as one or two minor flaws, about Juno. However, I don’t think these things by themselves make the movie great. I can’t say Juno is amazing solely, or even largely, because the soundtrack is beautiful, or because the characters are entertainingly and complexly written, or because the acting has incredible depth, even though these are all completely true. Instead, Juno works because it takes all of these aspects and combines them to create emotional significance, and each scene holds this significance preciously. Juno is a beautiful film, and I’m overjoyed to enthusiastically and ecstatically praise it.
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