At the start of Juno, the 16-year-old title character (Ellen Page) pays for her pregnancy test with the stick - pink for positive - still in hand. The cashier wisecracks, "This is one diddle that can't be undid, homeskillet." That quip, care of screenwriter and freshly minted Hot New Thing Diablo Cody, almost had me audibly groaning: So it's gonna be like that, is it? Well, yes and no. The quips keep coming, but they stop feeling so aggressively razzmatazz. The language settles down, and Juno settles into a sharp, winning relationship comedy.
There are a lot of relationships to choose from - Juno's strained one with her devoted but aggrieved parents (J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney); the newly formed one with the potential adoptive parents Juno finds in the Penny Saver (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner); and the push-and-pull one with best friend and baby daddy Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera).
Paulie may initially seem like a doof, but he's actually funny and smart and cool without trying, and is entirely worthy of Juno's affections. Same goes for Juno: Spend enough time with her deadpan and her irony, and you learn how to read between the lines, to the scared, confused and royally pissed teenager underneath the brazen, Buddha-bellied exterior. Page is marvelous, especially considering the role's balancing act between bitchy and twee, and she's backed by a terrific ensemble cast.
Juno is that rare bird, an indie comedy that uplifts - funny and smart, totally trying to be cool and succeeding, and heartfelt to boot.