Knocked Up

During its early moments, Jason Reitman's second feature threatens to choke on its quotation-marks catch phrases — like when The Office's Rainn Wilson, cameoing as a convenience-store clerk, tells Ellen Page's 16-year-old Juno MacGuff that her positive pregnancy test is "one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet." Or when Juno describes the perfect adoptive parents as a "cool graphic designer, midthirties, with a cool Asian girlfriend who totally rocks the bass, but I don't want to be too particular." She also digs McSweeney's, Iggy and the Stooges, and Dario Argento's Suspiria. Arch? Argh, yes. But after a little while, the movie calms down and finds its center — no, its heart. Indeed once it works its way through the first-timer's lookatme! snark, Juno gradually evolves into a thing of beauty and grace. By the end, it's unexpectedly moving without ever once trolling for crocodile tears, and full of uniformly astounding performances (from J.K. Simmons, especially, as Juno's supportive dad). Page, channeling Linda Cardellini's character from Freaks and Geeks, finds her way into — and past, way past — those early clever-clever lines to burrow deep into Juno's skin till she finds her soul.

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