LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Juno is sarcastic, 16, and pregnant and has already won the hearts of millions of fans.
On Tuesday, the quirky comedy “Juno” won four coveted Oscar nominations. Not bad for a movie that cost less than $10 million to make, and whose subject — teen pregnancy — would appear more likely to divide than unite U.S. moviegoers.
Instead “Juno” has managed to disarm both sides of the emotional and divisive debate over teen sexuality and abortion, gaining cult status and a healthy $85 million at the box office — more than the combined totals of Oscar front-runners “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.”
Juno MacGuff, an independent-minded geek played by relative newcomer Ellen Page of Canada, gets pregnant, considers abortion, but then decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption to a childless couple.
For Juno, the unwanted pregnancy from one sexual encounter with a bewildered friend is like “being in a fat suit I can’t take off.”
“If I could just have the thing and give it to you now, I totally would. But I’m guessing it looks probably like a sea monkey right now and we should let it get a little cuter,” Juno tells the would-be adoptive parents in one of the character’s typically acerbic lines.
Page, 20, was nominated on Tuesday for a best actress Oscar, while the movie made the most heart-warming entry on a somber list of best picture nominations.
Director Jason Reitman, 30, and writer Diablo Cody, 29, a former stripper making her first movie venture, brought the Oscar nominations to four.
Page said she was humbled to be nominated along with so many actors she admired. “I’m so happy for Diablo and Jason and everyone involved with making this movie because everyone put their heart into it and this response has been wonderful,” she said.
Reitman told Reuters in December he believed the movie had avoided being dragged into the U.S. political debate over abortion because it focused, with humor, on the human side of the story.
“If we had made it as a straight drama, people would emotionally take sides and not listen. But because of the humor, people start enjoying the film for its story,” Reitman said.
“Juno” became a break-out hit at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and has also earned four independent Spirit Award nominations, a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Page, and has carried off several award from U.S. film critics societies.