Saturday night marked my first film of the 2007 TIFF, the world premiere of the offbeat dramedy Juno from director Jason Reitman. Playing to a packed crowd at the Ryerson theater, I knew it was going to be one of those nights when I found myself walking in alongside Jason’s dad (and Hollywood heavy) Ivan Reitman.
I’ve gotta say, in settings like this, it’s got to be nice to be a famous director. While the majority of people may know and love your work, not as many are necessarily familiar with what you look like, so you can walk around relatively unnoticed.
Which was most definitely not the case when another kind of Hollywood royalty entered the building.
A few minutes before the screening began, the crowd started buzzing – more so than usual. When my girlfriend and I turned around to see what all the fuss was about, none other than Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were being escorted down the aisle (Jen’s a principle actor in Juno).
Turns out, their handlers had mistakenly brought the famous couple in the wrong entrance, and now they had to be paraded in front of the entire theater to get to their seats. “This is a disaster,” Jen whispered to Ben as they passed right by us in the front. (I was surprised to see that Jen, who’s never been a favorite of mine, is actually quite pretty in person).
“Affleck, you were the bomb in Phantoms,” somebody shouted. Dammit, why didn’t I think of that first?
Once everything settled down, Juno was actually quite good. Reitman’s follow-up to 2005’s Thank You for Smoking, it focuses on the titular teenager (Ellen Page of Hard Candy fame) who unwittingly gets pregnant by her friend Paulie Bleeker (Superbad‘s Michael Cera). But when Juno can’t stomach an abortion, she decides to go through with the pregnancy and give the tyke up for adoption. Enter the aforementioned Jennifer Garner who, along with Arrested Development alum Jason Bateman, make up the yuppie couple who’ll be adopting Juno’s baby.
Much like Reitman’s last flick, Juno is heavy on style, a slick and witty piece of filmmaking. You’re going to hear “the next Little Miss Sunshine” claims bandied about a lot in the coming months, but in truth, they don’t have much in common other than that they’re both funny, and they’re both very good.
The honest family drama and clever dialogue actually makes Juno more reminiscent of some of Wes Anderson‘s earlier work, most notably the underrated Bottle Rocket – the hipster soundtrack, heavy on the Belle and Sebastian, doesn’t hurt either.
But Reitman’s style is far more busy and manic than anything Anderson’s done… not that that’s a bad thing. Diablo Cody‘s script is handled ably by Juno‘s stellar cast, and The Office‘s Rainn Wilson makes a hilarious cameo in the opening scene that sets the tone from there on out.
Allison Janney is absolutely amazing as Juno’s stepmother, pairing with an always-great J.K. Simmons (Spiderman, Thank You for Smoking) in one of the first roles I’ve seen him in when he’s not forced to scream at the top of his lungs. And Michael Cera actually wasn’t in the movie as much as I had expected, but got by far the loudest applause of the bunch (what can I say? people love this guy).
Be on the lookout for Juno when it hits theaters in December, and keep an eye on Jason Reitman’s career, because this is one Hollywood brat that’s definitely going places.