The movie opens with a young woman standing in her front yard chugging down a gallon jug of Sunny Delight. She makes a disparaging remark about a frumpy Lazy-Boy recliner sitting on the grass, then walks off down the sidewalk. As she strolls through a working class pre-war suburban neighborhood sipping Sunny-D, the cartoonish opening credits make us wonder if this young woman might be walking to the local library.
No chance. Her destination is a run-down food mart where she has gone to buy her third and final pregnancy test.
Her bladder full, she hurries to the bathroom and pees on the stick. Another positive. Bummer. Yet another major blow to her already sucky life.
Juno is the name of the movie and of the title character, a bright, geeky, non-comforming 16-year old who has become pregnant by her best friend, Paulie Bleeker, from an afternoon when they were both bored and decided to see what sex felt like.
We are swept into the lives of modern-day teens — no Hollywood stereotypes here, just teen-agers in all their not-children, not-adult awkwardness. I found them every bit as obsessed with sex as I was 40 years ago, but with a huge difference: today’s culture has accepted being “sexually active” as a normal part of a teenager’s life.
And so Juno MacGuff — who isn’t ready to be a mother and whose geeky, shy boyfriend’s voice hasn’t even finished changing — decides to have an abortion.
Same old same old? Here is where Juno becomes a Sunny Delight. At the entrance to the local abortion clinic, Juno runs into her classmate Su-Chin, who is by herself, waving a placard and chanting, hoping to convince young women to give their babies a chance at life. Something Su-Chin says connects Juno to the life inside of her — her baby has fingernails. Juno feels something; she understands the miracle growing inside of her. She changes her mind.
Her decision makes perfect sense. Juno has lived her life wading against the tide of high school conformity. True to her character, she rebels against the conventional wisdom and decides to give her baby life. The movie unfolds lovingly, with humor and honesty as Juno negotiates the minefields of teen pregnancy while searching for a loving family to adopt her baby.
Juno is not in any obvious way a Christian movie. Yet, in its celebration of the miracle of life, and the painful sacrifices adults make to protect and nurture children into adulthood, Juno is profoundly soaked in the life-affirming message of Christianity.
The movie doesn’t preach against teenage sex. Young Juno MacGuff is never ashamed that she and Paulie had intercourse, only that her once-lithe body has now become “a planet,” and that the baby she is carrying will not be born into a perfect world. And yet, the movie never blinks in showing all of the terrible consequences teenaged sexual promiscuity has brought to our children.
And through it all, Juno MacGuff discovers that what her heart really longs for is a soulmate, someone who will accept her and love her for all of her quirky unconventionality, someone who will be a best friend, someone who will stay with her forever. In this way, too, Juno quietly undermines our modern convictions about the harmlessness of “recreational sex” and fluid, non-binding “commitments.” Through Juno’s eyes we remember our own deep longing for something better, a covenant, a promise of faithfulness, a life-long relationship, sexuality that blossoms from love.
In all the best ways, Juno is a deeply subversive film. It’s a wonderfully acted and written story with not a single cardboard character in the lot. Quiet, conversational, deeply emotional, Juno is a movie that will awaken your heart to the hope of something better than what we have settled for. It’s one of those rare movies where, when the credits roll, you find yourself wishing there was more.
Juno was directed by Jason Reitman and stars Ellen Page and Michael Cera.