Don’t look to Jason Reitman’s multi-Oscar-nominated second film for a tell-it-how-it-is window on teenage pregnancy nor a two-finger salute to the anti-abortion right. Ignore, too, its ‘Ghost World’-styled ‘indie’ clothing. Rising star Ellen Page, dressed down and knocked-up, admittedly, gives a confident performance as the eponymous 16-year-old, put-down-queen heroine with the impressive ’70s-era taste (The Stooges, Dario Argento horror).
But, just as her supposedly ‘counter-cultural’ profile looks like an assembly from a studio’s cultural dressing department, so does her endless series of screwball-sharp quips, clever quotes and wise-before-her-years aphorisms often seem to emanate from another body entirely – presumably that of devilish scriptwriter and ex-Pussy Ranch blogster Diablo Cody. ‘Very beautiful and very mean, like Diana Ross,’ is how Juno describes the Roman god for whom she is named – how funny, high- school and 16 is that?
The most you can say about ‘Juno’ – given you can ignore the film’s air of contrivance, self-consciousness and cake-and-eat-it attitude to social and moral issues (most clearly seen in the abortion clinic scene, where Juno decides to keep ‘the thing’ because of the centre’s unpleasant smell) – is that it at least tries to inject some wit and engagement into the tired teen ‘coming-of-age’ comedy.
The direction, surprisingly for the supposedly ‘edgy’ material, is conventional, but the acting offers compensations. Allison Janney and JK Simmons (as stepmom and sympathetic dad) are engaging, despite their parts being rather obvious counter-caricatures; and Michael Cera is sweet and believable as geeky impregnator Paulie.