This past weekend, “Juno” opened in limited release with a per-screen average of $60,000 , more than eight times that of “The Golden Compass.” On Thursday morning, it earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Actress and Screenplay. Somehow, the film is walking the line between being funny enough to be labeled the new “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and artistic enough to earn a 92 percent approval rating from movie critics on RottenTomatoes.com.
With each passing day, the boundary-breaking teen-pregnancy flick is looking more like an instant classic. The question is, at what moment does an actor or director realize that they’ve stumbled upon the golden ticket?
“The first time I read the script, when I was on page 45,” laughed director Jason Reitman. “I didn’t even make it to the end before I knew that this was going to be amazing. I was in the midst of writing my own screenplay, and I put that on hold so I could direct ‘Juno.’ ”
“It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. Jason Reitman is awesome, and Michael Cera is in it, so it felt pretty good,” remembered Ellen Page, who earned a Globe nod for playing the film’s eponymous 16-year-old. “But you never know.”
“Superbad” star Cera answered the question with his characteristic deadpan wit: “Just when you said that,” he stammered. “Just then.”
Cera’s “Arrested Development” dad, Jason Bateman, couldn’t answer seriously, either. “Truthfully, when I got the call and was asked to be in it,” he teased. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s going to make this a great film.’ ”
Certainly, Page and Cera’s unusual boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic fuels the flick, as do Bateman and Jennifer Garner as the “ideal” adopters, and J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man”) and Allison Janney (“Hairspray”) as Juno’s out-of-the-box parental figures. But thanks to the highly stylized dialogue of stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody, it’s the movie’s Tarantino-esque screenplay that is most deserving of breakout recognition.
“Your eggo is preggo,” the film begins, as “The Office” star Rainn Wilson delivers the bad news to Page’s quick-witted teen. “That’s one doodle that can’t be undid, home skillet.”
“The script is very stylized,” Bateman said of such lines. “If Ellen and Michael tried to hit a home run with every line, it would be overkill. Because the script is really the star of the film, and they do a really good job of underplaying everything. It’s a very current style of acting, this underplayed thing.”
“During the filming, we kept going, ‘This is the best line in the movie,’ ” Simmons said. “And then, ‘No, no, this is.’ There was like a hundred of them.”
Sure enough, everybody seems to have their favorite.
“The great ‘Juno’ line?” Reitman grinned. “It has to be: ‘I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans can I get into?’ ”
“I think my favorite might be: ‘Me too! I love Woody Allen!’ ” insisted Simmons, remembering a scene where Juno’s cheerleader friend is seen hitting on a middle-aged teacher. “Just because of the context.”
” ‘I’m pregnant,’ ” said Cera, explaining that he wants a T-shirt with the line written on it. “You’d be walking down the street, and people would think you were pregnant. And then you could just say, ‘No. It’s a quote from my new film, “Juno,” coming to theaters everywhere December 14.’ ”
Much like “Bueller,” “Borat” and “Napoleon Dynamite” before it, many of these lines are so quotable that you’ll undoubtedly be hearing them long after the film leaves theaters. Likewise, moviegoers will likely wonder where the film’s hamburger phone, love of punk rock and references to orange Tic-Tacs come from: Meet Diablo Cody.
“I dated a guy in high school that loved orange Tic-Tacs and always had them on hand,” the 29-year-old screenwriter explained of Cera’s character’s addiction, which yields one of the film’s sweetest moments. “And I think they’re kinda tasty myself.”
“Diablo also gets a kickback from the Tic-Tac company,” Reitman joked. “For every Tic-Tac you eat, she gets 2 cents.”
In real life, however, Cera admitted that the one-calorie breath mint isn’t necessarily his greatest vice. “It’s haircuts,” he quipped. “A good haircut can take me out of a bad mood. Even if it’s not a major one, just a trim.
“I’m on top of the world after that,” he sighed contentedly. “I feel great.”
With the events of the past week, then, it seems safe to say that the folks behind “Juno” are feeling as good as Michael Cera after a good Supercut.
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