At the time of release, much of the attention surrounding JUNO went to the screenwriter rather than the script.
Now the dust around Diablo Cody has settled, some voices have questioned the quality of the script.
by Karel Segers
I still believe it is a wonderful independent film, well-structured and beautifully written. Usually I am not a fan of mannered dialogue but here, this stylistic trademark is delivered really well by Juno’s strong cast.
Update 1 May 2012: Following some good suggestions from readers, I have changed the Inciting Incident from Bleeker’s line “Do whatever you think is right” to what it is now. Thank you all for the comments and suggestions!
Sequence A: One doodle that can’t be undid.
00.30 “AUTUM” Juno drinks juice. “It started with a chair.”
01.00 Flashback to the conception.
01.30 Opening Titles.
04.00 Third urine pregnancy test, Juno still won’t accept result.
05.00 There’s that pink “+” sign again.
05.30 Juno hangs a a candy noose off a tree, then eats it.
06.30 Juno calls best friend Leah to tell her. Disbelief. “Lunch baby?”
07.30 Juno with Leah, trying to figure out what to do.
08.30 FlashBack to how it started: Spanish Class
09.00 Bleeker getting ready to run.
09.30 Juno with Bleeker: Do whatever you think is right.
11.00 At school with Bleeker: they seem a pretty good match.
13.30 Juno calls for abortion info.
14.30 Juno VO about her past, mother and stepmum Bren.
16.00 Su-Chin: “All babies want to get borned”.
Sequence B: Crisis of conscience.
17.00 At WOMEN NOW: form to complete, free condom offered.
18.30 Juno waits, gets an anxiety attack and leaves.
19.00 With Leah: considering to adopt it out.
20.00 Reading adoption ads in the park: Mark & Vanessa sound good.
21.00 Bleeker at home, his mother doesn’t like Juno.
22.00 Juno tells her parents about the problem and her adoption plan.
25.00 Dad: Not ready to be a Pop-Pop. Mum: You know it wasn’t his idea.
Sequence C: Mark and Vanessa Lohring.
26.00 Driving there with dad.
27.00 Meeting Mark, who is cool & Vanessa who is highly strung.
28.00 Decision for a closed adoption. Mark isn’t too excited.
31.00 Juno, on the way to the toilet, checks out the house.
32.00 Juno bumps into Mark, they bond over a Les Paul guitar & music.
33.30 Vanessa goes upstairs when she hears Mark singing: reprimands him.
34.30 Vanessa is insecure but Juno is 104% sure she will go ahead.
Sequence D: Will Vanessa be a good mum?
36.00 WINTER – Bleek is running & questioned about stuff by classmate.
36.30 Bleek offers Juno to skip his movie party and join for the ultrasound.
37.30 Ultrasound nurse insults Juno, Bren retorts fiercely.
40.00 Juno visits Mark to show scans, they bond.
43.00 J. & M. listen to Sonic Youth, watch horror, talk about baby’s name.
46.30 Vanessa shows lots of baby stuff, mentions a ‘cold feet’ experience.
48.00 Bren thinks Juno has crossed a boundary by dropping by at M. & V.’s.
49.30 Visiting Bleeker; he plans for the future, wants to get back together.
52.30 POV: Mark & Vanessa have different views about preparations.
54.00 At the mall: Juno & Leah see Vanessa, who seems a good future mum.
55.00 They meet Vanessa, who feels the baby kick.
Sequence E: Will Mark be a (good) father?
57.00 “SPRING” Bleeker is running, Bren is sewing stretch pants for Juno.
58.00 Calling Mark, they chat and bond over music and learning.
58.30 Leah tells about Bleeker & Katrina for prom. Juno doesn’t believe it.
60.00 Juno argues with Bleeker over Katrina.
63.00 Putting on lipstick, to Mark: he shows pregnant superhero cartoon.
63.30 Mark & Juno dance. M. says he’s leaving V. Juno is in shock.
67.00 Vanessa arrives, asks what’s wrong; Mark admits he has cold feet.
70.00 Juno drives off, pulls over, cries.
72.00 Bleekers plays the guitar // Juno writes a note.
72.30 Mark & Vanessa talk about divorce and lawyers.
73.30 Juno delivers her note to Mark & Vanessa.
74.30 Juno asks her dad about true love and happiness. He gives advice.
Sequence F: I’m still in.
77.30 “Tic-tac-o-holic”. Mysterious delivery at night.
78.00 Bleeker finds tictacs. Juno visits him on the running track. Kisses him.
80.30 Water brakes.
81.00 Contractions, Juno begs for ‘spinal tap’.
82.00 Bleeker running.
82.30 Juno with dad in hospital: You’ll be back – on your terms!
83.00 Bleeker visits, lies with Juno.
84.00 Vanessa visits to see the baby.
85.00 The note to Vanessa: “If you’re still in, I’m still in”.
Sequence G: Bleeker and Juno
85.30 SUMMER – Juno on bike, VO about Bleeker as a top boyfriend.
86.30 Playing the guitar together.
Juno’s realisation of her pregnancy seems a very early Inciting Incident. Because of the repeated urine tests, it almost passes as a ‘normal life’ situation for this story. Why then IS it the Inciting Incident? Because Juno MUST act. Her life has changed irreversibly and she’s got to do something about it.
Twenty minutes of screen time pass between Juno’s realisation and the end of Act One. Why does this work? Possibly because of the sequential structure.
The first sequence is much less about the realisation of being pregnant than it is about the question ‘who is going to help me’? Until Bleeker says “Do whatever you think is right”, she is still trying to get the solution from others. After this, she knows she will have to come up with the answer.
What follows is still a 15mins long ‘think-think’ sequence. This works fabulously, because it leaves us all with the nagging moral question “what would I do?”. Because of the depth of the dilemma, it takes a certain amount of time for our heroine to properly consider these options.
Once she has decided, she puts her plan to her parents and with their blessing, Juno has an objective for Act Two.
While Juno’s Outer Objective is about responsibly carrying the baby, the strongest Inner Journeys are really Vanessa and Mark’s. Their behaviours display flaws that may impact on their parenthood: Vanessa acts highly strung and Mark appears strangely blasé about it all. Act IIa asks “is Vanessa a suitable mother?” and Act IIb gradually shows Mark to be unfit as a father.
Although Mark and Vanessa’s journeys are gradual and they evolve throughout Act Two, the shopping mall sequence / mid point is a powerful connection point for two reasons: 1) for Juno it answers the question whether Vanessa is really suitable to raise her child and 2) it will give Juno the strength to proceed once Mark bails out.
The end of Act Two usually consists of two parts: the down part (Mark bailing out) and an up part (Dad offering hope). In this film it is executed in an extraordinary way as we will learn that Juno had made up her mind before getting her dad’s advice. While we are watching the film it seems as if she finds the strength from this conversation. When we finally get to see Juno’s note to Vanessa “If you’re still in, I’m still in”, we learn that the Act Two of her Inner Journey had completed before we saw it. This is consistent with the principle that the hero usually only gets ahead of the audience towards the second half of the movie.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.