Thursday, December 20, 2007

Capsule Review: Juno

Movie: Juno
Director/Studio: Jason Reitman / Fox Searchlight
10 Word Review: Most certainly overwritten, but also a witty and kind comedy.

Best Thing About It: The screenplay. Diablo Cody's much-lauded script has some truly funny moments, but more importantly is unexpectedly generous towards all its characters, despite what its too-cool-for-school leanings might suggest. The story takes some unexpected and welcome turns, but most importantly, it finally calms itself down long enough to let the actors shine. On the other hand...

Worst Thing About It: The screenplay. All those funny moments threaten to drown in a sea of overwritten, aggressively sarcastic, unbearably self-conscious dialogue. It leaves the cast -- every one of them doing yeoman's work -- with a lot to overcome, particularly when it comes to the Juno character; it's extremely difficult to feel anything about a girl who is such a mass of affectations. I honestly think if you simply cut half the words out of most of the scenes, you'd have a much stronger movie.

Best Performance: Ellen Page does a hell of a job muscling a real girl out of the tangled ball of quips Juno is on the page, but my two favorite performances were given by Allison Janney and Jennifer Garner. Janney is perhaps the most talented actress in the business at creating complete and hilarious characters from the absolute margins of the story. Garner's character ends up benefiting most from that unexpected generosity in the script I was talking about, but she certainly earns it with a performance full of quiet pain and even quieter joy.

Oscar Prospects: It's sort of suspended in between "good bet" and "shaky prospect," and my guess is we'll need some hints from the guild awards to show us the way. Best Picture is a possibility, and Ellen Page stands an even better shot than that. Jennifer Garner's a long shot, but not out of the question. Diablo Cody is totally winning Best Original Screenplay, though, which is too bad, because she's an incredibly talented storyteller who needs a lot more discipline, and I'm not sure winning an Oscar right out of the gate is going to deliver that message.

Grade: B-

1 comment:

jessica said...

Just saw this last night and loved it. You're right about the heavy-handedness of the script and the affectations, of course, but it didn't take away, really, from the sheer enjoyability of the flick. I wondered for a while where things would go, but I was pretty pleased overall with the results.

Also totally agree with you on Janney and Garner. Janney is easy because her character is so open, but Garner's careful restraint could easily be overlooked, as could the self-involved desperation of her counterpart Jason Bateman. Really liked the way that character was allowed to go down this shaky path and be unsympathetic in this completely realistic way, without becoming a cartoonish villain.