Juno is a film about every parent’s worst nightmare: a pregnant daughter at sixteen. While this film tackles difficult issues like abortion and adoption under a guise of wit and sarcasm, it ultimately presents a realistic and glass-half-full coming of age story, despite unfortunate circumstances. Writer Diablo Cody manages to create a story that nods to the classic Hollywood ‘growing up’ narrative while simultaneously turning it on its head. Viewers who were just looking for a quirky indie-flick may leave the film with quotable and cynical Juno-isms, but they might also shed a sympathetic tear or two. This film connects with audiences because it’s complicated. Life doesn’t play out like a Hollywood movie, and Juno gives viewers the satisfaction of a happy ending without compromising its complexity.

At first glance, Juno is not the girl in high school who is bound to get pregnant. She is a wisecracking, guitar playing, less-than-feminine misfit who talks to friends on her hamburger phone and downs blue slushees like water. Juno seduces her lanky and awkward best friend Paulie and, after three pregnancy tests and a gallon of Sunny-D, is faced with that “unholy” little pink plus sign. After revealing the pregnancy to her friend Leah, Juno heads to an abortion clinic to “nip it in the bud.” When faced with a pro-life classmate who informs Juno that her baby has fingernails, and the impersonal and sterile medical environment, she storms out of the abortion clinic and hatches a plan to give the baby to “a woman with a bum ovary or a couple nice lesbos.” Instead, she finds Mark and Vanessa, a wealthy young couple looking to start a family. Juno bonds with Mark over a love of alternative music and slasher movies, but is later betrayed when he reveals that he is leaving Vanessa and is not ready to be a father. This revelation tears apart Juno’s vision of the perfect suburban family and is the turning point in the film. Juno returns to Mark and Vanessa’s home and leaves a note at the door for Vanessa that reads: “If you’re still in, I’m still in.” Juno gives her baby boy to Vanessa, and overcomes her cynicism to realize that despite his goldenrod running shorts and obsession with orange tic-tacs, she is in love with Paulie Bleecker.


Many elements of the film add to its quirky appeal and eventual conclusion that life is messy, but happy endings can be messy, too. The mise-en-scene set-up to this conclusion is Juno’s world and the seemingly opposite world of supposed ‘perfect couple’ Mark and Vanessa. Juno’s unconventional family consists of her H-vac repairing father, her dog-obsessed nail technician Stepmom, and their young daughter Liberty Bell. Their life is unexciting and furnished with mismatched recliners and tacky collectibles. The scene that we are introduced to as we meet Mark and Vanessa could not be more different. Images of silver picture frames, white furniture, and fresh flowers lead us into the immaculate home of the perfect adoptive parents. Both Mark and Vanessa are dressed in clean, button-down shirts and dress slacks in tones to match their designer home. Juno and her father look starkly out of place as they sit on the pristine couch in their plaid and denim attire. To Juno, this is what the home of an ideal family looks like. This opposition is used to show both Juno and the viewer that no family is perfect. Even the ideal couple turns out to be messed up, just like everyone else.

Cody gives the other political issues in the film a realistic spin as well. At first, it seems that Juno has no qualms about fixing her problem with a “hasty abortion,” which is what the viewer would expect from her nonconformist and pessimistic character. No, Juno does not break down with a speech through tears about how abortion is wrong and she could never do such a thing. Either choice would be too easy. Instead, Juno faces fear in both direction but decides to bear public ridicule in order to give the baby to a loving family. The political sentiments about pregnant teenagers and adoption don’t go unnoticed in this film. Juno gets glares from classmates, Paulie’s mother, and the school administrator. Mark and Vanessa must buy their own baby supplies because people who adopt don’t get the same privileges and celebrations that traditional families do. While the undertones of social sentiment are serious, Juno still pokes fun at the teen-pregnancy issue by declaring herself “the cautionary whale.”

Juno loses her idealistic attitude about family when Mark decides to leave Vanessa, but her Dad gives us the most important and meaningful lesson of the movie. Juno questions the premise of the ‘happily ever after’ dream altogether. “I just wonder if, like, two people can stay together for good,” she says. Her remarried father reminds her that he is not perfect and relationships are not easy, but he’s been happily with her Stepmom for ten years. He gives Juno wise advice to find a person who loves her just the way she is because “the right person’s still gonna think the sun shines out of your ass.”

The film Juno presents us with two worlds: the American suburban ideal and the unconventional working-class mixed family. While even Juno originally sees her world as insufficient compared to Mark and Vanessa’s satin furniture and granite kitchen, she eventually realizes that nothing in life is that simple. Despite Juno’s preconceived notions and cynicism, her ‘messed-up’ family comes through in the end. She eventually lets go of the fairly tale ideal and is okay with giving her baby to a single mom. The ending is not perfect. It is messy and complicated, but that’s life, and it’s refreshing to see that on the big Hollywood screen.

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