Life & Death

‘JUNO' & ‘SWEENEY TODD'

I first heard about Jason Reitman’s quirkily bighearted film Juno from an unlikely source: Rush Limbaugh. The maven of right-wing talk radio had seen an advance screening, and he gushed about the movie’s prolife message. Rush’s recommendation was almost enough to scare me off, but I went anyway—and I’m glad I did. Reitman’s movie is the most charming surprise of the past year in cinema.

Juno opens with a comic-book animation sequence that morphs into real life, as Kimya Dawson’s folk-pop melodies strum both plangent and sweet, and a brash girl protagonist fires off edgy one-liners calculated to show the world she’s tough. And Juno MacGuff will need to be, because at sixteen—and such a little waif of a thing!—she finds herself pregnant, the result of an afternoon seduction of her friend Paulie Bleeker, a guitar-playing classmate who radiates shy kindness.

Confessing her mistake to her father and stepmother, Juno assures them she has things under control. She calls an abortion clinic and announces herself with another cynical-sounding wisecrack (“Hello, I’d like to procure a hasty abortion!”). But she can’t go through with it. In the clinic’s parking lot, a lone prolife protester informs her that the fetus she’s carrying already has fingernails. The image sticks; and impulsively, but with apparent deep certainty, Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption. The...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.