Juno didn’t just open at the multiplex last year. Without hype, it snuck up on us, put us all in on a discovery, and made a star of Ellen Page as the pregnant, teenaged title character. Then this “little” movie piled up a huge gross of $142 million, became a phenom, earned a slew of Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and actually a won a golden dildo for Diablo Cody’s smart and smartass screenplay. A backlash had to whip up. That’s one doodle that can’t be undid, homeskillet. Juno‘s wisecrcking style has been parodied on every TV comedy show and website from here to Ruritania. So the arrival today of Juno on DVD is a good chance to take stock. Can we still feel something for the girl who stole our hearts (if she ever did?) or are we heading for a permanent breakup?
My advice for starters is to get the single-disc edition of Juno. There’s nothing wrong with the two-disc special edition — it’s quite the quality package. That’s the problem. Juno has become a product, like anything in Hollywood that sells. The single disc, bare-bones edition looks, well, normal, and sports a few nifty extras, including scrappy commentary from Cody and director Jason Reitman. But the two-disc number (see photo) comes loaded for the tourist trade. Orange Tic Tacs, Paulie Bleeker’s faves, are strewn across the cover. Cute? Too cute at least. And, get this, the second disc contains a version of the film that you can download easily onto to your portable pod of choice. Plus, you get an overload of bonus stuff with icky titles, such as “Diablo Cody is Totally Boss Featurette,” “Jason Reitman For Shizz Featurette” and “Honest To Blog! Creating Juno Featurette.” Had enough? On Blu-ray, you get all that plus Fox Movie Channel Presents: Juno casting session and world premiere. Somewhere beneath all the crap that wants to turn Juno into an indie version of High School Musical, there is a solid little movie. And, yes, I still like it. OK, Juno is sometimes too facile for its own good. But the devil in Cody’s script lets in wit, anger, distress and the pain of romantic longing. And Page is luminous. A few reviews of the just-released Smart People, which Page filmed before Juno, note the Juno-isms in her Young Republican. In The New Yokk Times, A.O. Scott called Page’s character “Diablo Cody’s Juno rewritten by Ayn Rand.” Is Page a one-trick pony? See her in 2006’s Hard Candy, and silencio. When Juno’s dad (J.K. Simmons) asks her to define herself, Juno pauses to reflect. And Page’s delivery of the line, “I really don’t know what kind of girl I am,” reveals the film as more than a laugh machine. It’s one from the bruised heart. Honest to blog. Objections will now be heard.
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAd
Whatever you think of Juno, you can’t beat seeing Sidney Lumet, at eighy three, direct the hell out of this dynamite family drama. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it till they rip the keyboard out of my cold, dead hands, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead deserved the Oscar nominations Juno got for Best Picture and especially Best Director. How could a young maverick like Reitman match the artistry of the man who from 1957’s 12 Angry Men to this beauty ranks as a master? Nominations were also owed Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as brothers in debt and at each other’s throats. And how about Marisa Tomei as the fireball married to Hoffman and banging Hawke? The desperate boys plan a robbery, just a mom-and-pop jewelry store in a suburban mall. The catch is that it’s their mom (Rosemary Harris) and pop (Albert Finney). Lumet fuses dark wit, suspense and tragedy into a time-shifting film that vibrates with energy. Since the single-disc features Lumet’s no-bull commentary, there’s no question which DVD goes to the top of the must list. My time-capsule scene is the robbery, when things go wrong and Hawke hyperventilates in the getaway car. What’s yours?