Oscar hopeful "Juno" pregnant with humor, baby

By Lara Avery

Not unlike a liberal arts education, the film “Juno” is what you make of it. I saw it several days after its Christmas release, and a few minutes into the feature I found myself thinking two thoughts: one, I can’t believe I forgot to buy Reese’s Pieces at the gas station, now I will be overcharged, and two, this is not a realistic portrayal of a teenage pregnancy. Considering the financial strain, the alienation from one’s peers, and the painful act of childbirth itself, this is one situation where laughter might not be the best medicine. Frankly, I would prefer knock-out drugs or a time machine. Ah, but we know all too well that in Hollywood obstacles dissolve like sand in the hands of an able character. In this movie, the Vaudeville-esque quips delivered by Ellen Page as Roman deity namesake Juno cover the placenta of reality in a downy blanket. To begin our journey into the magical hilarity of an unwanted fetus, Juno gets knocked up by her adorably awkward best pal Paulie Bleeker, played by adorably awkward Michael Cera of “Arrested Development” and “Superbad fame” (as opposed to a drunken stranger or a commitment-phobe boyfriend). Their sex scene was lit beautifully, with saturated close-ups on the innocent faces of the young lovers. As a witness to their terribly distracting cuteness, I totally understood why they forgot a condom.

Instead of having to work two jobs or beg her parents, Juno’s hospital bills are relieved by a barren but baby-obsessed Jennifer Garner and her husband, Jason Bateman. After being turned away from abortion by a Christian classmate, the classifieds grant Juno with the opportunity to birth her baby quite literally into the hands of the suburban couple. The quirky Juno and cardigan-wearing Garner make a theatrical pair, especially when the sixteen-year-old sits in the cream parlor of the mother-to-be and tells her, “You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. They pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.” Juno’s seventies-punk-fan interests, though in contrast, do not offset the couple when embracing the spritely teenager in their quest for offspring. Don’t get the wrong idea; the husband and wife are friendly but far from perfect. It is important to note that the couple is very rich and live in a nice but boring house, and therefore they are repressed.

The physical discomfort of pregnancy and the birthing process is narrated aptly by Juno’s fat jokes and sharp expletives she thinks up even in labor. Without the hulking burden of bodily humiliation, there is plenty of room in “Juno” for lovely bits of film-making from writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. Micheal Cera as Bleeker, for instance, participates in a Wes Anderson-like cross country team, whose comical outfits and colorful uniformity grace shots of changing seasons in the fictional Minnesotan (woohoo!) community. My favorite moment was Juno’s method of breaking the news to Paulie Bleeker, which consisted of scavenging a full living room set and arranging it on Paulie’s lawn as she pretended to smoke a tobacco pipe and waited for him to step out of his house.

This film also features a carefree, alternative soundtrack including The Kinks and Belle & Sebastian. The happiest song comes in the closing shot, where a baby-less Ellen Page and Michael Cera play “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches as they sit across from one another with guitars. Instead of having to yell over the static of a baby monitor, Juno and Bleeker softly sing to each other in the summer sun because they are in love. Also, they can afford instruments because they don’t have a kid.

As I watched them serenade each other, I reflected on the incredibly witty means by which these characters have reached their end. Apparently those unconventional means are the indie appeal of this flick, as it has grown into not only a box-office hit but an Oscar hopeful. Audiences and critics alike seem to love “Juno,” perhaps for the feeling of relief they get when they realize that the teens get to rid themselves of the expensive and smelly result of their ordeal and return to self-actualization through other means-drinking clever slushies, wearing clever screen-printed shirts, and talking on that crazily clever hamburger phone.

The young mothers I know couldn’t be more different from Ellen Page as Juno. They are robbed of their education, unhappy, and broke. Maybe if they could get a spare moment, this movie would cheer them up. Keeping in mind how differently Juno drives her situation and the film itself, Reitman and Cody might as well have made a movie about Ellen Page being overweight for nine months. I suppose they kind of already did that, and you know what? It’s not bad.