Directed by Jason Reitman
written by Diablo Cody

Juno, the much-talked about film about a pregnant teenage hipster, has been praised for being this year’s “little film that could." This film became popular as major studios continued to churn out bombastic comic-book movies and crude, simple-minded comedies while working to break a writers’ strike. However, Juno offers nothing much as an alternative and is indeed another crowd-pleaser that takes the path of least resistance, albeit more “quirky” than the glossy studio fare.

The film begins with the title character (Ellen Page) discovering she is pregnant by her awkwardly timid friend, Paul (Michael Cena). Juno confides in her best friend, a ditzy cheerleader (Olivia Thirby), who exists only for comic relief alongside wisecracking Juno. She makes a trip to an abortion clinic to terminate the pregnancy, but gets cold feet. Juno and her friend take out an ad in the newspaper, looking for prospective parents to adopt the baby. Juno tells her bemused, but understanding parents (J.K. Simmons, Alison Janney) about her pregnancy. Even the parents have to treat the situation with glibness in this modern teenage comedy. Referring to the shy Paul, the father says, “You know, of course, it wasn’t his idea.”

A couple answers the ad, a yuppie, Generation X couple, Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner). Mark is a commercial jingle writer, Vanessa (presumably unable to have children) is an overworked wife, who dreams of a child to complete her middle-class existence. Mark is undergoing somewhat of an early mid-life crisis, seeing the young, precocious Juno as his inner child (the two bond on common pop culture affinities, B-movies and music curios, and questions his marriage and prospective fatherhood. This epiphany complicates matters as the couple makes arrangement for adoption once Juno’s baby is born.

Juno is being called an “indie” favorite. In reality, it is a small studio production. It is a product of Fox Searchlight, a studio subsidiary, which with others like it (Paramount Vantage, Warner Independent, Miramax, etc.) promote the supposedly artistic, serious, or otherwise modestly budgeted “hip” films like this film. Typically, one will find major stars or conformist or the least resistant stories, factors determining how these films get made in the first place. Films like Juno are often then promoted under the guise of irony or idiosyncrasy, to corner the market of those who may be disaffected with studio pablum and are looking for something smaller.

As endearing as Juno may be, cuteness, no matter how much it tries to pander to the “hip” audience, hardly makes it a significant film. In fact, the film takes its subject matter – teenage pregnancy and family and social relationships and takes the path of least resistance, opting for a bittersweet solution that doesn’t offend anyone. We will be told that the film doesn’t moralize, but at the same time it doesn’t go beyond the surface appearances one would find in these anointed “indie” comedies. For instance, what is it about the marriage of the prospective adoptive parents that causes strain? The movie simply attributes this to a mid-life crisis. The characters, from the parents, to the boyfriend, to the couple, are too easily defined, their situations a bit too neat as the film chooses to focus on the usual journey of the pregnancy. Its inability to resist tired popular culture references deflects any moments that threaten to delve into more serious matters.

Juno has been compared to last year’s Little Miss Sunshine. That film, at least in its limited way, had a spirit of revolt against the plastic world of child beauty pageants. Juno with all its quirky, ironic dialogue is a cute little movie that one would pat on the head and give a piece a candy.