Thursday, March 18, 2010

Juno (film)

Juno, directed by Jason Reitman, with screenplay by Diablo Cody. 20th Century Fox/Fox Searchlight, 2007.  96 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Plot Summary
Juno MacGuff is 16 and she decides she's ready to have sex, so she and her friend Paulie, a fellow outsider, "do it". Juno gets pregnant. As she faces some difficult choices about what to do, her acerbic wit and snarky, smart outlook on life bring her and her family through a tough situation. Her parents and best friend are loving and supportive, and Juno has found a wonderfully excited adoptive mother, but what Juno really wants is to be friends with Paulie again. Is it possible to have a baby and fall in love with the father afterwards?

Critical Evaluation
Diablo Cody's quirky script sparkles with wit and humor.  According to a review in Variety,  "The way the torrents of archly amusing, vocabulary-bending dialogue trip off the tongues of the characters, you know you’re in the hands of some manner of distinctive write,...very handy at shotgunning bright teen quips, as well as catching the attitudes of two distinct types of adults" (Todd McCarthy). In the New York Times, A.O.  Scott suggests that "it’s not that Juno treats her pregnancy as a joke, but rather that in the sardonic spirit of the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, she can’t help finding humor in it...At first her sarcasm is bracing and also a bit jarring...but as “Juno” follows her from pregnancy test to delivery room (and hastily retreats from the prospect of abortion), it takes on surprising delicacy and emotional depth" (link). Roger Ebert says "the film's surprises, in any event, involve not merely the plot but insights into the characters, including feelings that coil along just beneath the surface so that they seem inevitable when they're revealed. The film has no wrong scenes and no extra scenes, and flows like running water." (Chicago Sun-Times). The screenplay for this film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and the film appears on YALSA's list of Fabulous Films for Young Adults in 2009. Ratings for this film were overwhelmingly positive, and teens will enjoy this humorous look at a real situation that some teenagers may be forced to face.

Reader’s Annotation
Juno MacGuff is 16 and pregnant. As she plans to give the baby up for adoption, she faces her challenges with humor and a sense of fun.

Author Information
Diablo Cody grew up in a Chicago suburb and graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in media studies. On a whim, she signed up for amateur night at a Minneapolis strip club and eventually quit her day job to become a full-time stripper (source). She later became a journalist and writer;she wrote a memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, when she was 24, and it was published in 2005 by Gotham Books. Juno was her first screenplay. She also is a staff writer for the TV series United States of Tara and wrote the screenplay for the recent horror film Jennifer's Body.

film; coming of age story

Curriculum Ties
Film: screenplay writing
Sociology: teen pregnancy

Booktalking Ideas

Reading Level/Interest Age
High school students will be interested in this film.

Challenge Issues
Sex (not explicitly shown in the film, but implicit in the story). Some language.

Challenge Defense
Concerned parents may want to check out a ratings site such as Kids in Mind or Screen It to get specific details about film content before deciding to allow their children to see this movie.

I included this film because YALSA selected it as a Fabulous Film for Young Adults. I loved it when it first came out, and I was glad for an excuse to see it again.


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