While I was an admirer of Jason Reitman’s frosh effort Thank You for Smoking, which was a wickedly funny intellectually sharp and well-acted movie, Juno is another matter entirely. One, it is written by ex-midwestern stripper-turned-blogger/screenwriter Diablo Cody, who has an uncommon ear for smart witty edgily contemporary dialogue that while a tad exaggerated, rings true.
Two, managers Mason Novick and J.C. Spinks had the sense to scoop Cody up from blogdom and coax her to write. Her script, Juno, hit the town like wildfire two years ago.
She wrote a book Candy Girl, which inspired Letterman to put her on the show in 2006:
Mandate developed Juno and got it to Reitman, who had a first-look deal with Fox Searchlight and had the sense to recognize what he could do with this screenplay. In fact, he stopped writing his own script and signed on to direct this one instead. Mandate and Searchlight co-financed the film; Searchlight has domestic rights and Mandate has foreign.
Here’s a a Spout podcast with Reitman and Cody from Telluride, where Juno debuted.
The movie is hitting a nerve and I can see why. It’s fresh and cheeky and about something we haven’t seen presented this way before: a bright and healthy teen (Ellen Page, whose career will soar after this; she could get nominated) from a decent family who gets pregnant with her new boyfriend (Cera) by mistake and decides to give the child up for adoption to a yuppy couple (well-played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman). The script is unpredictable and as directed by Reitman, walks the same line between comedy and heartfelt emotion that Little Miss Sunshine did. That’s why people are comparing the two: Juno looks and plays like a comedy but packs an unexpected emotional whallop. The movie will be a hit. And with luck and proper handling, it could survive the crazy awards season and nab some prizes for Cody, Reitman and Page.
The next morning, I drive to Nate ‘n’ Al’s in Beverly Hills for breakfast. This deli is so old-school it makes Canter’s look like Chi. Apparently, Larry King eats breakfast here every day, and sure enough, he’s two booths away from me, noshing with his morning buddies. He looks fragile and adorable, like a Muppet likeness of himself. I’m here to meet with the head of my agency’s literary department, an incredibly animated and hyperactive fellow. Like Larry King, he eats here every morning. He tells me an amazing story about saving a guy’s life in the bathroom.
“I walked in and he was choking over the toilet,” he says gesturing wildly. “Without thinking, I gave him the Heimlich. Out popped the cantaloupe, and there you go! So what do you want for breakfast? Do you like eggs? How about an omelet? Everything is delicious.”
He pushes a new copy of Variety across the table at me. “By the way, I saw you in the trades. Congratulations.”
I look down at Variety and see that there’s an article headlined “Mandate Finds Its Juno.” I had known there was a trade announcement about the movie planned, but I didn’t know Manager had cleverly arranged for the article’s run date to coincide with my trip to L.A. For the rest of the day, people I meet will say “Diablo Cody? I saw you in the trades today!” The trades are a mercurial bible, a daily devotional for everyone in the know.
And here’s squeaky-clean Dave Karger’s EW.com interview with Arrested Development stars Jason Bateman and Michael Cera:
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]