Allison Janney is drop-dead gorgeous.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Why this woman is not a mega-star is baffling to me. She’s amazingly talented, a fabulous comedian, practically eight feet tall, and did I mention gorgeous? She deserves to be on a level with Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, and one day, I hope, she will be.
Yesterday was not that day, however.
At the Sutton Place press conference for Juno, Jason Reitman’s (Thank You For Smoking) new flick about a pregnant 16-year-old, the photographers only had eyes for Jennifer Garner (admittedly also very lovely). And the two people doing most of the talking were Jason Bateman, who plays Garner’s husband in the film, and screenwriter Diablo Cody, who looks just about as you’d expect for someone who said: “America needed a black comedy about the scourge of teen pregnancy, and I’m here for them.” Pink-streaked hair, checkered Vans, tattoos – she’d read NOW if she lived here.
Reitman and Ellen Page, who plays the title role, both agreed that before the script arrived they never intended to make a teen flick. Page, the tiny Canadian with a ridiculous number of credits on her resume for a 20-year-old, said the chance “to be a 16-year-old girl in a film and wear sweater vests was a thrill. That and a sex scene with Michael Cera.”
Ah, yes. Cera. Introduced as “the pride of Brampton, Ontario,” the star of the summer’s best-received comedy (Superbad) was surprisingly quiet, although he did manage to make his former TV dad, Bateman, laugh with a story about being yelled at at an open-mic night. Not for playing sucky music, but for knocking the microphone over.
Bateman acknowledged that it would have been weird for the two of them to share a scene in the film, but he missed working with Cera so much that he snuck on to the set during the latter’s scenes, “just to see him do what he does so well.”
Bateman’s character is the closest thing the film has to a villain, playing a man stuck in his own kind of arrested development and not ready for the kid he and Garner are planning to adopt from Page. But there are no real bad guys, not even Janney’s role as Juno’s step-mom.
“She’s not an evil stepmother, she’s very supportive,” Janney said.
“I myself am a stepmother of the un-evil variety,” Cody put in, which was why she wanted to write the character that way.
Cody was asked about Knocked Up, another film about unexpected pregnancy, and about how many women felt the decision by Katherine Heigl’s character not to have an abortion felt contrived and unrealistic. Why, the reporter wondered, did Juno decide to have the baby?
“I didn’t want the movie to be a short,” Cody deadpanned. “So in service to the narrative I allowed her to carry it to term.
“If you’re asking me if I’m pro-choice," she said, "I am.”
Garner and Bateman, as new parents, were asked if they drew on their own experience for their roles. Garner acknowledged that she could understand her character’s deep longing to have a child. Bateman, on the other hand, said the question didn’t really apply, since his character didn’t want the baby, and he was the one who twisted his wife’s arm to have one.
“You twisted her arm?” Reitman asked. “There’s a word for that, Jason.”
“I twisted her arm, and then I spread her legs,” Bateman replied. “That’s how it happens guys, you can’t wish it. You gotta get in there.”
“’Juno: You Gotta Get In There’” said Reitman. “And on that note…”
And on that note, the press conference was over.