There's a perfect little gem of a movie buried inside of Juno, an off beat-yet-honest portrayal of a precocious high school girl, Juno (played by an acerbic Ellen Page), who gets pregnant, finds herself unable to go through with an abortion, and decides to give the baby up for adoption. She finds the perfect baby-seeking couple in the classifieds: High-strung Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) wants nothing more than to be a mom, while guitar-playing hubby Mark (Jason Bateman) seems supportive, but isn't quite ready to give up his futile dreams of being a rock star.
Without delving into the implications of the current trend toward offbeat-yet-honest movies about women who decide to carry unwanted pregnancies to term (the world probably isn't quite ready for a lighthearted abortion comedy), suffice to say that Juno's approach to the baby problem is refreshingly unsentimental, from Juno's pragmatic approach to her condition to the disappointed-yet-supportive reaction of her father and stepmother (played with a pitch-perfect combo of weariness and humor by Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons). Throw in a flawless cast (including the always-loveable Michael Cera), straight-from-life laughs, and a few quietly devastating moments, and you have a film that's rich and rewarding on many levels.
Unfortunately, it's not enough that Juno is funny, well written, and perfectly acted; director Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) seems determined to get his piece of the saccharine twee-cinema pie, and the film has a too-precious lacquer that can distract from its best moments. Quirky affectations are mistaken for character traits (Cera's character just can't get enough orange Tic Tacs!), while a Moldy Peaches/Kimya Dawson-dominated soundtrack sets the emotional tone at "endearingly fraught." This constant adorableness makes Juno feel like high school revisionism—a fantasy version of the charming outsider high school experience we all wish we'd had, rather than the sensitive, realistic film it has the potential to be.