TIFF Movie Review: Juno

Juno is not only the best film of the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, but it's also the best movie of the year (so far).

For days I've sat in dark screening rooms filled with other movie critics. And let me tell you, for a group of people who should love movies, critics are some of the least responsive movie-watching audiences. Films at Toronto play in 500+ seat theaters, packed with emotionless critics from around the world, and the usual LA crowd (which I'll refrain from making jokes about because, the cliches are usually unrealistically true, and it's too easy). My point is this: I've seen five movies so far at the festival, and not one peep from the industry/critic crowd. Juno was different. There were laughs on and off throughout every scene, and when the credits hit, there was a good round of applause. [note: the public screening had the biggest, longest, and loudest standing ovation in the history of the Toronto International Film Festival.]

But Juno is not one of those movies that only critics or hardcore film geeks could love, it has a huge mainstream potential. I believe that Juno will be the Little Miss Sunshine of 2007.

Written by Diablo Cody (who wrote the popular autobiographical novel, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper), Juno stars Ellen Page (the new indie it girl, replacing Evan Rachel Wood, who replaced Jena Malone) as Juno MacGuff, a teenage girl who becomes pregnant after her first sexual encounter with classmate Bleeker (played by Michael Cera). Juno decides to have the baby and, with the help of her best friend Leah (Oliva Thrilby), finds a suburban couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) to adopt the unborn child.

From the moment this film begins with a color pencil-stylized rotoscoped animated title sequence, to the incredible set design, the indie folk/pop infused soundtrack, snappy dialogue, surprisingly versatile performance from Ellen Page, to the off beat and colorful cinematography, Juno is a first class indie comedy with major mass appeal. This is the type of film that I thought Wes Anderson would be making when I first saw Rushmore. The characters are interesting, but not too arresting, unique but not weird for the sake of being weird. The dialogue is caustic and some may find it to be overwritten, but masterly crafted.

It's funny how a story with the same basic concept of Knocked Up, can result in such a very different film. Juno is more about the girl's journey to find herself, which women may find more relatable. A couple of my female friends were put off on Katherine Heigl's continued but may-be unwarranted reliance on Seth Rogen's character. Juno is a more multi-dimensional story.

Thank You For Smoking director Jason Reitman has established himself as a director to watch in the upcoming years.

/Film Rating: 9 out of 10