“Diablo is like a fairy tale come to life,” gushed Reitman in Toronto. That’s actually no exaggeration, not even if Cody herself happens to be the tale’s author. Indeed, her swift progression from teen geek to media studies grad to ad-copy proofer, from internet bride to Pussy Ranch blogger and stripper to alt-weekly scribe, from risqué memoirist to red-hot screenwriter to flirtatious Letterman guest and, uh, Oscar contender—“Honest to blog!” as Juno would say—is so perfect it’s as if the kid wrote her own Wikipedia entry before living it (and then posting it on Wikipedia).
Granted, Cody couldn’t have coerced Mason Novick, her L.A.-based manager, to discover her work, email her at City Pages, and ask if she’d consider writing a screenplay (the book deal followed from here as well). On the other hand, it’s not as if the means by which a young Hollywood dude happened upon a blog called Pussy Ranch will remain a mystery.
By working it, as they say in the biz, Cody has naturally inspired no small amount of professional jealousy in Minneapolis—albeit nothing compared to what’d spew forth if her alleged treatment for a sitcom set at an alt-weekly newspaper-turned-corporate commodity should get produced. Poor writers like me who, lacking balls (or pussy), could inspire only outright ridicule for strutting naked on a stage might be inclined to resent the sexually manipulative, supremely self-confident Cody—but would just as often end up resenting themselves for resenting her. “I think everything is prostitution in a way,” she told Letterman—the truest and finest one-liner of her career thus far. And if Juno plays like late-period John Hughes—Some Kind of Wonderful meets She’s Having a Baby, with zippier coinages and trendier tunage—it isn’t tough to believe the project’s industry appeal.
With Cody keeping mindful of “old smart alecks,” Juno’s key strategy is to undercut its inherently sentimental moments with dark-comic whatevers up to the point where, you know, it doesn’t. That occurs after about an hour, once adopter Vanessa Loring (Jennifer Garner) has verbally introduced herself to the “baby” (isn’t that a fetus?) through Juno’s tummy. Vanessa’s squabbles with her developmentally arrested spouse—alt rocker-turned-stay-at-home-jingle-composer Mark (Jason Bateman), a dead ringer for Cody’s hubby, Landing Gear keyboardist-turned-adman Jon Hunt—are smartly deployed to accentuate Juno’s anxiety about the “perfect” Lorings. As in a Hughes movie, the heroine’s dad (J.K. Simmons) emerges as a working-class hero, tinkering at the dining-room table and dropping pearls of wisdom like “Find the one who really loves you, kiddo.”
Anyone have a Kleenex? Indeed, the youngish woman next to me at the Toronto screening was seen to wipe tears from her cheeks at the end; I’d guess she wasn’t the only one in the 1,500-seat theater to do so. This is one pregnancy comedy that’s been conceived to go all the way. Allison Janney’s stepmom could be anticipating the movie’s bait-and-switch when she says of Juno’s scandal: “Somebody’s gonna find a special blessing from Jesus in this garbage bag of a situation.” (Special rates for church groups at the multiplex?)
Honest to blog, I’d say Juno’s justly proud mama has roughly a trimester to find suitable threads for the Academy Awards. Since fashion is one stage on which the stripper hasn’t yet excelled, I’ll offer Cody some early Oscar-night advice: That short red thrift-store skirt might seem like it’s better than nothing, kiddo, but it isn’t.
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