A Page turning

On Air Canada last night from Toronto to Edmonton, I saw Juno. Brilliantly written film, knows exactly where it wants to go, and how to get there. All I can say is that Diablo Cody (writer) is a goddess, and Jason Reitman (director) is her high priest.

By the way, there are no real spoilers in what follows, but I will be discussing this film in enough detail that if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to do so before reading on.

Of course it has the Moment – when the entire essence of the film is revealed in one masterful shot. In this case it’s a reaction shot – the look on the face of Juno, played by the incomparable Ellen Page, after Jennifer Garner’s character has become overwhelmed with surprised delight to feel the baby kicking.

Up until this point we have seen Juno go through an immense variety of emotions and facial expressions: cocky, sad, defiant, quizzical, enraged, vulnerable… The list goes on. But suddenly in that shot we see something new, something Reitman has been holding back from us – an expression comes over Page’s face of utter serenity, combined, for the first time, with a complete, and somewhat startling, lack of vulnerability. It’s there in the combination of her relaxed beautific smile and the kindly yet commanding look in her eyes. This is not the feisty girl-against-the-world we’ve been getting to know for the past hour. This is the Madonna, the all powerful goddess, Shakti incarnate, bringer of fertility to bereft mortal women longing to be with child.

When that moment comes, two crucial things happen at once: First, Juno finally understands, on a conscious level, the extent of her own power. We and everyone around her in the film have been aware from the start that she is by far the most powerful presence on the screen. But she hasn’t, until that moment. Second, the surprising yet perfect ending is foreshadowed – this is the moment that will guide Juno away from the false path of an illusory maturity, unto the true path of adult responsibility and, ultimately, happiness. You can think of it as the “Lester Burnham makes the girl breakfast” moment.

In a way, the husband and wife that wish to adopt her child serve as opposing demon guides along her spiritual path to coming into her own power. Both are disguised, as demons generally are. Each represents a different aspect of adulthood, and of course neither ends up being quite what they had seemed to be.

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There is another aspect of this film that I found to be quite revelatory. I think this is an important film politically, in a way that might even have ramifications for the upcoming presidential election. Not in what it says, but in the way it says things. More on that tomorrow.

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