0

Ellen Page, Diablo Cody talk about life with 'Juno'

Diablo Cody is laying on the floor, stretched out in a wide beam of sunlight, soaking up the warmth. Her body language is casual and relaxed, as if she were in her own living room and not a conference suite on the 50th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta.

"You know, my dog does this," she said, referring to the sun bathing. "He's a Chihuahua. But I have to move him after a while, because Chihuahuas don't have an internal gauge. So they'll stay there in the sun all day and, literally, they will cook themselves."

"Aw," pipes in Ellen Page, sitting in a chair near the window. "I love Barnabas. Don't let him cook himself."

And with these characteristically quirky remarks, we were off.

Cody, screenwriter for "Juno," and Page, its title character and star, were in town recently to discuss the film. At the time of the interview, weeks from today's release date, "Juno" buzz had already begun. The film's clever dialogue, charmingly odd characters and star-studded cast (including Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera) have stirred up the media pot. Not only have Cody and Page been bombarded with press requests, they have likewise gathered a cult-like following - including a group of adolescent boys who wrote a song about the film, called "Good Morning Juno."

"I saw it on YouTube," Page said. "I was tooling around and I found these guys playing 'Good Morning Juno,' which they wrote for the movie. And it was sweet and sensitive and I loved it. I had to send it to her [Diablo] because, you know, it was all her fault. But then at the screening last night, the guys, they were there. I know! They had no idea we were going to be there, either. It was like meeting the Beatles."

What is it about "Juno" that has audiences so excited? It could be the offbeat, easy-to-relate-to characters. It could be the thorough, heartfelt writing. Or perhaps, it's the unorthodox storyline, about a teenage girl who finds herself pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption. Which, in all truth, sounds heavy but comes off as hilarious, quaint and quick-witted.

Although it's a comedy laden with controversial topics (teen pregnancy, abortion, adoption and divorce, to name a few), there hasn't been much in the way of public backlash. Very few critics have shaken their fists in rage or sent the filmmakers hate mail. Rather, the response has been one of understanding, of personal connection and, ultimately, of being highly and completely entertained.

"The whole experience has been Twinkies and rainbows," Cody said. "It's been amazingly smooth. As far as controversy, well, it really could go either way. Some people may ask if I played it too safe, that it's construed as vanilla because she didn't have an abortion. But I guess I'm not too worried about it causing controversy. This film is more personal than political. It doesn't come off as a political allegory or an issues movie. It's a universal story."

Cody and Page are both reluctant to take the blame - or really, the credit - for sculpting a film accidentally loaded with hot topics, but delivering it as playful.

Page, breaking into a wide and contagious grin, points the finger at Cody. "It's this girl," she said. "She wrote a script that was completely devoid of stereotypes, fantastically refreshing and very, very witty. It had heart. Everyone who became involved just loved it for that. It was about establishing the tone that made it realistic, and that enabled it to be funny and genuine and all those things."

But Cody, instantly turning humble, will have none of it. She points to the director, Jason Reitman, for developing a film that is equal parts realistic and lovable. "Jason [Reitman] is masterful at establishing tone. He's not afraid to tread serious situations for humor," Cody said, adding, "And nor am I."