Screenplay Structure: Juno

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Directed by Jason Reitman, Juno tells the story of the title character (played by Ellen Page) who becomes pregnant at the age of sixteen and must now confront the challenges that are thrown her way.  Juno received unanimous praise upon its release, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay written by Diablo Cody.

For this article, I’ll break down the screenplay and give a rundown of what made Juno such a fantastic film.

Act 1: Set-Up/Inciting Incident

The set-up to Juno ties in within the films inciting an incident. Juno sleeps with her friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). After taking three pregnancy test, Juno discovers that she is pregnant.

Scared at the fact that she is now sixteen and pregnant, and with Paulie wanting nothing to do with being a father, Juno must now come up with a plan to either have an abortion or to have the baby and give it up for adoption.

Act 1: Debate

Juno at first decides to have an abortion. She visits a clinic that is run by a women’s group where Juno is confronted by a schoolmate holding a one-person pro-life protest. Once inside, a variety of factors within the clinic leads Juno to walk out. At that moment, Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption.

Transition to Act 2/The Midpoint

Juno and her friend Leah (Olivia Thirlby) search for couples looking to adopt through ads in Pennysaver to find a suitable home for the baby. Juno gains support from her father, Mac (J.K. Simmons), and stepmother, Brem (Allison Janney).  

Through the ad search, Juno finds Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who are willing to adopt the baby through a closed adoption. This means that once the baby is adopted, the records of the biological parents are kept sealed. In short, Juno’s baby would have no idea who his/her birth parents would be.  

After talking things out between the Loring’s and her father, Juno agrees to go ahead with the adoption.

Act 2: Fun and Games

Juno begins to bond with Mark during her visits to the Loring’s house. They both share a taste in punk rock music and horror movies. Here we learn that Mark was a part of a rock band during his youth but gave it up once he married Vanessa. Mark now makes a career out of writing commercial jingles.  

During one of their outings, Juno and Mark see Vanessa in a shopping mall playing with a child. Seeing how at ease Vanessa is with children, Juno encourages Vanessa to talk to her baby in the womb where it kicks her.

Transition to Act 3: Tensions Rise

As Juno’s pregnancy progresses, she struggles with her feelings for Paulie who is still in love with Juno. However, Juno learns that Paulie asked another girl for the upcoming prom and angrily confronts him. Paulie reminds Juno that she was the one who wanted them to remain distant and tells Juno that she broke his heart.  

Meanwhile, Mark tells Juno that he is leaving Vanessa. Juno is horrified at this realization, with Mark asking Juno “How do you think of me?”, revealing that he is beginning to have feelings for Juno.  

Vanessa arrives home, and Mark tells her that he is not ready to be a father and wants to do more with his life.

Heartbroken, Juno leaves the Loring’s house and breaks down on the side of the road. She returns to the Loring’s residence to drop off a note and disappears as they answer the door.

Act 3: The Finale

After a heartfelt talk with her father, Juno accepts the fact that she is still in love with Paulie. Juno tells Paulie that she still loves him, and Paulie’s actions are clear that he still holds feelings for Juno. They seal the deal with a kiss.  

Not long after, Juno went into labor and rushed to the hospital. She doesn’t tell Paulie because of his track meet. But when Paulie doesn’t see Juno sitting in the stands, he rushes to the hospital to see her.  

Act 3: Epilogue

Juno gives birth to a baby boy. Vanessa arrives at the hospital where she claims the child as an adoptive single mother. On the wall in the new baby’s room, Vanessa has framed the note that Juno left at the door reading: “Vanessa: if you’re still in, I’m still in. – Juno.”

Sitting outside on a summers day, Juno and Paulie play guitars and sing together before ending the movie with them kissing each other.  

Daniel Zuaro is a graduate of Buffalo State College with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Production with a minor in Film Studies. He has always loved studying film that he wishes to pursue a career in which he can write about film or even teach about film and its history. He is a Long Island native who loves music, spending time with family and friends, food, and his cat Harvey Milk.

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