Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman (Ellen Page) makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child. She embarks on a search to find the "perfect couple" to take on parenting responsibilities only to find life isn't quite so simple.

An unbelievably fresh and witty idea

Every year the Hollywood system throws out an indie that’s touted as the antidote to all the usual slick studio junk. Most often, the orgy of self-congratulation means the film in question can’t hope to meet the hype, and with that in mind, I was cautious of Juno.

But happily, this is one dramatic comedy that doesn’t go overboard on the quirky factor or serve up an excess of too-cool-for-school moments. Instead, it goes for the heart with believable and rounded characters who’ve found themselves in a dilly of a pickle.

Juno is the precocious 16-year-old who has discovered she’s pregnant to her geeky pal, Bleeker. Unable to go through with an abortion, Juno decides to have the baby and give it up for adoption to a good home. Enter shiny, happy yuppies, Mark and Vanessa Loring – who seem to fit the bill.

Juno is directed by Jason Reitman, who two years ago gave us the wonderful Thank You For Smoking. But getting more attention is that this is the first screenplay from Diablo Cody, a stripper turned scripter and full-time media darling.

Cody deserves plenty of credit for coming up with such a simple but affecting premise and complicated, believable characters. She does make Juno perhaps a tad too hip in places but it’s forgivable because it’s a defence mechanism for the character and, cinematically, she’s so funny.

Juno also benefits enormously from Ellen Page’s effortless inhabitation of the central role. This, and her work in Hard Candy, mark her as one of the best actresses in movies today.

Juno’s supporting players are dead-on, particularly Alison Janney as Juno’s plucky step-mum and Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the slightly sad prospective parents.

Reitman makes the passing of the seasons in suburban Minnesota eye-pleasing, but eventually the folksy soundtrack by band Mouldy Peaches wears thin because all the lilting songs sound the same.

These are small qualms, though, and Juno’s a thoughtful and touching crowd-pleaser that rates four stars.