By Jason Reitman
When I was twelve, my parents decided to adopt a child. I grew up in a very Loring-like residence with incense sticks, plexiglass enclosed tchotchkes, and framed portraits of my family posing all dressed in white (yup, that was us).
One morning, we assembled in the living room where my sister and I were informed that we would be visited by a social worker that would deem whether or not we were an appropriate home for an adopted child. It was an audition of how good a family we were.
Of course, now I look back and realize we were a shoe-in... a happy loving affluent family who were adopting for all the right reasons. But at the time, I remember the pressure. Spending hours in front of this social worker, acting like I was in the British novelization of my own life. Hello sister, would you like to share my orange juice?
The story of Juno comes from Diablo’s childhood when one of her closest friends in high school became pregnant and decided to take the baby to term. Often, she is asked what gave her the idea to make this into a movie. The first scene she ever thought of the kernel of Juno is that meeting at the Loring house, where Juno meets the potential parents of her child.
There is something incredibly complex about the character dynamics of that scene.
• A middle class father who would normally only enter one of these homes to service the heater is now being treated like royalty.
• A thirty-year-old man, terrified by entering the chapter of parenthood, is balancing between the placation of his wife and his fascination with this unique teenager.
• A thirty-year-old woman, incapable of having a child of her own, has turned to the teenager she would normally ignore at the mall. She walks on eggshells, hoping to earn the trust of a girl that thinks of pregnancy as an inconvenience.
• A tiny sixteen-year-old girl who would normally be egging the community gates is now auditioning the adults.
At the end of the day, Juno is not a movie about teenage pregnancy as much as it is about the delicate balance of these relationships. Somehow, Diablo’s script is able to approach each and all of the characters with sophisticated realism and respect.
There are so many things that make a film work. The mechanics of filmmaking are too complicated to single out any one thing. However, when I think of that scene and the approach to these characters, I can’t help feel that Diablo and I, in one way or another, have sat on either side of the living room in that scene. It is that combination of experiences. That collaboration of perspectives that made the film resonate not only with humor, but with warmth.