Juno MacGuff (played magnificently by TIFF regular Ellen Page), finds herself pregnant, knocked up by her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) on their first attempt at sex. Juno, with the help of her best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby), takes it upon herself to find some adoptive parents. Courtesy of the local Penny Saver, she soon finds childless couple Mark and Vanessa (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner).
With the help of her surprisingly supportive father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmom (Allison Janney), Juno embarks on her pregnancy, which ends up affecting everyone in some unexpected and touching ways.
This was a great film, probably the best I've seen so far at the festival. Ellen Page gives a wonderful performance as Juno, convincingly portraying her as a real independent free spirit. Michael Cera was good and funny, although I occasionally had trouble divorcing his character from George-Michael Bluth. J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney did a nice turn as Juno's parents. Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman were great as the adoptive parents who, while seemingly the perfect suburban couple on the outside, have their own sets of issues on the inside. Bateman especially gave a great performance as Mark, who is worried about sacrificing his own dreams as he connects with Juno over a shared love of music and the reality of the baby sinks in.
This is director Jason Reitman's follow up to his first feature film, Thank You For Smoking, which also debuted at the festival on the exact same date and time in 2005. This is screenwriter Diablo Cody's first feature film, and she put together a refreshing take on the typical teen pregnancy story with some great dialogue for the actors. The audience laughed so hard at some of the lines, they drowned out the ones that followed.
Pretty much everyone involved in the film attended this world premiere, and they stayed for a Q&A after the show (pictures at the end of this post):
- Everyone cast in the film was a first choice for their respective roles.
- Reitman picked this as his follow up to Thank You For Smoking because he fell in love with the script; he was originally writing his own screenplay for a different film as his sophomore effort. He felt it looked at teen pregnancy in an open-minded way, with interesting choices at every turn. He felt he needed to direct it. And he joked that he had to show he had a soul after everyone assumed he didn't have one because of his first film.
- On approaching the script, Page commented that she was blown away by how beautiful and honest the script was on reading it, and had some trepidation about being able to do it right.
- Bateman commented that when you see a script with as distinct a voice as this one, and being able to work with Reitman and his technique, your instinct as an actor is to disappear as much as you can and let the script and the director be the star. The tone and style was underplayed and they spoke naturally and didn't try to spin things or look for laughs.
- On the music in the film, Diablo Cody had originally written the script with specific music in mind. At one point, Reitman asked Page who she thought Juno would listen to, and she led Reitman to the Moldy Peaches (Page and Cera play one of their songs at the end of the film). Reitman then got connected with Kimya Dawson, who supplied the original music for the soundtrack.
- On the inspiration for the story, Cody describe how like a lot of writers she sits down and cycles through ideas, she strikes on one that sounds great, and then it occurs to her that she's seen it done before. This was one idea that she felt hadn't been done before, looking at the bizarre dynamic between this pregnant teen birth mother and these prospective adoptive parents - "this would be hilarious" she joked.
- When asked what is next for her, Cody joked that she'd probably "slink back into obscurity." She is actually working on a number of things. The script for Juno she did back in 2004 and it only took her a couple of months, so she's stockpiled quite a bit since then.
- Someone asked Michael Cera is he rode in on the GO Train from Brampton (GO is the provincial commuter rail, and Cera was born in Brampton, to the west of Toronto). He said he was staying at a hotel downtown, to which Bateman added, "but his folks did".
- Cody was asked how she came up with convincing dialog for Page and Cera and the other teens in the film. She replied that she was loath to use the term "arrested development" in this crowd, but she is in a bit of that state herself, so she doesn't have any problem writing like a teenager.
- When asked if Juno's parents were supposed to be moral and good and the antithesis of the characters in Thank You For Smoking, Reitman replied he liked the characters in his first movie, and he didn't think of things that way. He didn't find Juno's parents' reaction to the pregnancy surprising, he felt it was real and not like an afterschool special.
- For the scene in the mall where Vanessa feels the baby kick, Jennifer Garner shot it at 8 in the morning after shooting all night.
- When asked if being a mother affected Garner in this role, she replied that she shot Juno after giving birth to her daughter, so that she understood on a different level the intensity of that need to have a baby.
- Reitman first saw Page in Hard Candy (which premiered previously at the festival).
- Page was asked if she is like Juno and did it take her a long time to get into the role. Page replied that if asked is she more like Juno than a sadistic human being who likes to pretend to cut off men's balls (a reference to Hard Candy), then yes, she is like Juno. :-) She said she can be as inappropriate as Juno, like Sarah Silverman on speed, but maybe not as racist. She got the script and loved it, bought Pregnancy for Dummies ("an awkward moment at Chapters") and she had a "friggin' blast" and is extremely grateful to have shot the movie.
- On a side note, Ben Affleck was also at the premiere in support of Garner.
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman:
Director Jason Reitman, Ellen Page, and Michael Cera:
Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, and screenwriter Diablo Cody:
Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, and Allison Janney: