Ahhh, Ellen Page is back. After this essence of pugnacious energy so impressed me with her turnabout role in "Hard Candy", her all-too brief cameo in "X-men: The Last Stand," and as lead in the somewhat unsatisfying "Mouth to Mouth" I've been waiting anxiously for her next shot at inevitable stardom. This may be it, or it's just another solid step on that certain way.
Juno MacGuff (Page), a smart teenager with the composure of a lion tamer, decides she'd like to have sex with her nerdy classmate Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera, "Arrested Development" TV series) one night. For his part, he's pleased but so used to her ofttimes bizarre ways, doesn't make anything more out of it than what it is. So far it pretty much amounts to one time; one experiment.
But nature doesn't have it mapped out that harmlessly because she becomes pregnant, wouldn't you know?
When she tells best friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby, "United 93") and their circle of gal pals whom she has had her first sexual experience with, and the subsequent bad luck that resulted from it, the reaction, considering this crew's discounting of Bleeker as a goofball is, like, "ewwww." Like, WHYYYYyy?
Reactions vary, and even parents Mac (J.K. Simmons) and Bren (Allison Janney) aren't altogether predictable, though they appreciate the difficulties she's invited into her life with her actions. But Juno demonstrates her essential togetherness by declaring her intentions to put her child up for adoption. All she need do is find the perfect couple.
Easier said than done. The choice turns out to be Vanessa and Mark Loring (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), but when you dive beneath the idealistic surface of their marriage, you find they're somewhere south of perfection.
Comedic entanglements ensue, with the imperfections of Juno's perfect plan showing more plainly than her pregnant belly, seriously threatening the maintenance of the young lady's considerable poise.
Now 20 years old, Nova-Scotian Page doesn't only have the face of an angel and a taste for subtle humor, but a full arsenal of performance gifts, maintaining our interest and sympathies in every frame. In fact, the girl's grip on us gets downright emotional even as we laugh at the situational ironies. Scrappy as ever, she's a gift and one can hope the big studio guns use her well, as I'm sure they won't be able not to.
A smart, feel-good holiday release for the season of 2007 from director Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") working from a gem of a first-time script by Ms. Diablo Cody who's got the teen patois down pat.
~~ Jules Brenner