Bernie and I watched it last night, and I almost didn’t make it through the first ten minutes. It is wildly overwritten, Ellen Page delivering the smug one liners like every female comic on the Los Angeles alternative scene. It is also a pretty good movie.

The plot has some nice twists, but there’s a parallel structure at play as well, unfolding outside of the action. It’s in the way the movie releases information: about the past, about basic character traits or about the characters’ relationships with each other–whole scenes are devoted to finding out something new. Some of these scenes don’t advance the plot at all, they’re just there to advance our understanding as an audience. I like this kind of story telling very much, almost as much as I hated the dialogue at the start. Credit (and blame) go to first-time screenwriter/”unlikely stripper” Diablo Cody.

Ellen Page won me over as Juno.* J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney are terrific as her father and step-mother. Michael Cera, as her boyfriend, is wonderful in a gutsy, girlish turn. Jennifer Garner is sweet as the adoptive mother. Jason Bateman plays it safe as the adoptive father (and at the same time he doesn’t take risks as a performer, he gives away his character’s shadier side too early and too easily).

*Note to screenwriter/”unlikely stripper” Diablo Cody: the Roman goddess Juno is the wife of the Roman god Jupiter (or Jove), not the Greek god Zeus. The Greek goddess Hera is the wife of Zeus. Or if Diablo was too busy inserting three extra words into every one-liner, the movie has ten producers, including John Malkovich. Maybe one of them could have cracked open Edith Hamilton.

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