Juno is a movie about a unique 16 year old girl, Juno MacGuff who becomes impregnated by her best friend, an awkward, spindly track team runner named Paulie Bleeker. The tale begins with Juno taking pregnancy tests and eventually discovering what has happened. After informing Paulie of the situation, she decides to abort the baby. However, she changes her mind in the clinic waiting room, and instead decides to have the baby and let a couple adopt it. After finding what appears to be the perfect couple, she learns things may not be as they seem, and must deal with issues of maturity, pregnancy, judgment, and allegiance on her journey through early motherhood.
Most fundamentally, Juno is a statement piece about maturity. The use of such an offbeat and apparently juvenile protagonist as a vehicle for this message is a powerful choice, as it requires the journey to adulthood to be more arduous and abrupt than if the character was already quite sophisticated and adult. This ties into a point brought up in the book about character expectations. From the beginning of the movie, it’s evident that Juno is a charismatic, young, quirky girl, one which, it’s implied, is unfit for motherhood (even disregarding her age). While the film never does change its stance on Juno being ready to be a parent, it does show that she can make hard decisions, and eventually make a responsible choice regarding her child. Her ultimate alliance with the initially off-putting Vanessa over the cool but irresponsible Mark shows that she can look past her personal interests (rock music, horror films) and make a choice that’s best for someone else (her child). Speaking of Mark, despite his age, is actually the example of immaturity in this film, not the teenage Juno. While Juno, as discussed just now, did have complete a hero journey to maturity, while Mark never changed. Despite his life initially appearing to be that of fully-grown, successful man, it is revealed scene by scene that he’s really still mentally a teenager, and was never able to get past his rock-star aspirations. Even at the end of the movie, there is no indication he will ever change; the last heard from him is that he was moving into a loft in the city. Faced with the opportunity to prove himself as an adult, he runs away and retreats into his immature interests and pursuits. It is due to this that I would argue the film conveys a message that maturity is much more than just age, but is instead an unguaranteed goal which must be achieved through strong character.Another concept I think the film intentionally grapples with is that of belonging. There are several strong examples in this film of characters experiencing complications over where they belong. The most obvious crisis is the concern of what to do with Juno’s unborn baby. Does it belong with Juno, despite her age, would it be better off not being born at all, or should it be placed in the care of someone else? The first option is discounted immediately, with no character ever making mention that Juno should raise the child herself. The second, too, is disregarded early in the story, but even with only one option left, the reality of where the child belongs is not so simple. Beyond this child, Juno must discover if she belongs, romantically, with her friend Paulie. Though their relationship stumbles along the course of the film, the last scene is of them together, after they have begun dating. It appears, then, that they do belong together. Juno clearly must think so, when she goes to meet Paulie at practice to tell him she “think[s]” she loves him. There’s more to Juno’s belonging issue than her relationship with Paulie, however; she also does not particularly fit in or identify with any social group. This can be seen in the exchange:
You’ve never been to a dance, have you?
Only squares and nerds go to dances.
What are you?
I don’t know.
Furthermore, Juno is never really seen around other people her age, other than Paulie and her best friend Leah. Her behavior and personality are very uncommon and unique, and even the viewer will likely have a problem fully understanding her and trying to identify her with any archetypal group. Yet another crisis of belonging can be seen in Mark. Though he seems at least in mutual agreement with his then-wife Vanessa about adopting a child, he decides later his place is not to be a father. He doesn’t seem ignorant of the notion that he will probably never be a rock star, but that doesn’t make him want to stop trying. He decides he doesn’t belong in a traditional father role, and feels so strongly about this lack of belonging that he adopts not a child, but the life of a bachelor.