A love story that starts with a teen pregnancy and that is often racy about teenage sex might not be the most traditional tale, but Jason Reitman's new film Juno (rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, and language) captures the one-step-forward-two-back progression of teen maturity better than most.
Impregnated after a one-night stand with her best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera), 16-year-old Juno (Ellen Page) changes her plans for an abortion when a pro-life classmate plants in her brain the image of her child's fingernails. She decides to give the baby to a childless couple, played with the loving desperation of Jennifer Garner and the nonchalant charm of Jason Bateman.
Flippant and detached about her difficult situation, Juno is forced to deal with aspects of adulthood that she deems "beyond her maturity level." But the overly glib approach that helped her navigate the halls of Dancing Elk High won't protect her in this situation.
Imbued with a humor lacking in most young screen teens, Juno is an anti-hero for a new generation. Told that her parents might be worried about her, she promptly responds, "I'm already pregnant. So what kinds of other shenanigans can I get into?"
When she tells her father of her predicament, he is disappointed, telling her that he thought she was the kind of girl who knew "when to say no." Crestfallen, she responds, "I don't really know what kind of girl I am."
The beauty of Juno lies in its title character's complex journey to figure that out. Rejecting the authority of adults has left her to navigate this path alone, and watching her stumble and fall provides more than a few lessons for viewers.