“Juno”: Ellen Page takes on mythic proportions

You’ve probably come across some headlines about the indie film Juno, starring Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men 3). The critics adore it — they’re calling it “a gust of fresh air“; “a film bristling with vitality and heart“; a movie that sounds “not a single false note.” It’s been nominated for a Spirit Award and is generating some early Oscar buzz. [Warning: Minor spoilers.]

The box office is just as taken with the film. Even though Juno opened on just seven screens this past weekend, it beat Little Miss Sunshine‘s first weekend and averaged a whopping $59,124 per screen (Enchanted, for example, averaged $9,233 per screen during its opening weekend).

I’ll happily jump on this particular bandwagon. Juno is a moving, charming film, and Ellen Page is fantastic in it. And I mean that both in the sense of “excellent” and in the sense of “based on fantasy.” You can’t really call the movie realistic, and that’s part of why it’s so endearing. Who wouldn’t like to live in a world where parents and stepparents are supportive and fun, teenagers are both wiseass and wise, and women respect themselves and each other? I much prefer that to realism.

About midway through the film, Juno explains the origin of her name: Her dad was into myths at the time, so he named her after one of Zeus’ wives — the “really beautiful and really mean” one. Juno’s not mean, but she’s definitely beautiful and mythical. Although I suppose a lot of teenagers will try to talk like Juno after they’ve seen this film, I doubt her brand of patter is common. I don’t even know any adults who are as consistently quick-witted as she is.

But that’s not a criticism. I like it when movies give us something to aspire to, and I do aspire to love as sincerely and live as honestly as Juno does. And to quip so brilliantly, of course.

The supporting cast is great too: Olivia Thirlby has a bright future; Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons make hilarious, awesome parents; Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman are fascinating; and how cute is Michael Cera?

And of course I loved the feminism of the film. Slate.com says Juno is “Knocked Up from the girl’s point of view.” And that’s what’s feminist about it — it doesn’t really make any statements, but it does put women at the center of the story. And that’s still a rare thing.

If I were a teenager, I’d probably have a giant crush on Juno, and therefore on Ellen Page. She seems smart and cool, judging by the recent profile in New York magazine. The article is a very good read; here are some excerpts:

“I was obsessive about getting this role, because I don’t think we’ve ever had a character like Juno. She is abrupt and unapologetic, extremely independent, and listens to seventies punk — and the film doesn’t dwell on her uniqueness, you know? There’s no, ‘Oh, look at this crazy outcast!’ She’s not interesting in relation to a stereotype — she wears flannel shirts and sweater vests, and it’s just who she is.”


[R]ight now [Page is] watching herself play one kind of girl yet still being pushed toward another. “It’s just freaky. Like, are we really still stuck there?” she asks, noting that a few photo shoots have already set off warning bells. “Every shoot, I don’t want to be thrown some lacy pink shirt — sometimes I would prefer to not wear a shirt at all. At least I’d be owning that moment.

“I mean, Annie Lennox used to be able to dress like a man and sell albums,” says Page, in her flannel shirt and Converse sneakers. “I don’t think a big star could do that right now.”

Page herself could become a big star. I’ll enjoy watching her career unfold. She has a couple of films on deck before Jack and Diane, aka the lesbian werewolf movie.

Meanwhile, I’m going to download the Juno soundtrack and quote the film as often as possible. Except every quote I can think of at the moment would sound weird out of context. That seems very fitting somehow.