2007, US, directed by Jason Reitman
After the amusing opening credits (accompanied by a song that's reminiscent of the opening to Jason Reitman's previous film, Thank You For Smoking), the first fifteen minutes of Juno put you through the pop-culture wringer. The smart-aleck comments and hipster references come thick and fast, with Diablo Cody's script front-loading its smarts to the point of overwriting: the teens here speak like the characters from Dawson's Creek in overdrive, and my wife turned to me, only half in jest, to wonder whether we had any hope of understanding the movie.
Thankfully the frantic pacing of the one-liners lets up after the introduction, letting the viewer breathe and allowing the characters to emerge from behind the torrent of words: there are even magical moments of silence, like the moment when Juno's best friend, Paulie (played by Michael Sera) discovers that their night of passion together has resulted in a pregnancy. The transformation of Sera's face in the aftermath of this revelation is quite remarkable, his features speaking as eloquently as any snappy line of dialogue. It's also one of the few moments where you get a sense of a character grappling with the depths of a teen pregnancy; for the most part, the film isn't all that interested in raw realism, and conflicts are resolved in remarkably reasonable fashion throughout.
As the film progresses, the purpose of Juno's near-constant stream of patter emerges, casting the opening in a new light: she uses the chatter as a carapace to cover her nerves and deep sense of uncertainty about herself, both before and after the discovery that she's pregnant. Later in the film, she encounters someone else who behaves the same way: when he's unmasked in front of Juno she sees the deception for what it is, and prompts what's perhaps her first truly adult decision, made with a new wisdom.
Though the script eventually grew on me, Juno's greatest strength is its cast, from Ellen Page in the title role - she's on the screen almost the entire film, and she creates an utterly convincing teen portrait - through Michael Cera (the film jumps up a notch every moment he's on the screen), JK Simmons, and Jennifer Garner, who reveals a striking vulnerability in one lovely moment that gives new depth to her character.