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5 Movies like Juno: Growing Pains

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Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorIf you enjoyed the awkward and charming chemistry of Juno (2007), check out The Way Way Back (2013) or The Spectacular Now (2013). Or, for more pregnancy-based comedies, see Waitress (2007) or Knocked Up (2007).~ Jonny Sweet

In many ways, Juno was a very innovative movie. Not only did it skilfully sidestep the pitfall of becoming just another indie teen movie, it approached the issue of teen pregnancy from an angle that was all but unheard of (for mainstream cinema).

Although in the past, such films had portrayed the subject as tragic and the unwilling mothers-to-be as victims, Juno dispenses with the doom and gloomery in favour of a mature and realistic message, spattered with some genuine belly laughs and glossed over with a delightful soundtrack featuring Belle and Sebastian,The Moldy Peaches and the two lead actors themselves, Ellen Page and Michael Cera.

The film was, quite simply, a breath of fresh air; and the best movies similar to Juno all share the same novel characteristics.

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What Are Some Good Movies like Juno?

Interestingly, for all of its innovation, Juno was not the only one pioneering new ground at the same time. Within 24 months of its release, cinema audiences were also treated to Knocked Up and Waitress, both of which featured strong, young, female protagonists, who rejected the victim label and took charge of their own situations.

Furthermore, in the teen comedy category, the genre has been overflowing with quality films combining unusual characters, delicately-constructed emotive soundtracks and fresh humour.

Finally, for another film which also deals with young adults coming to terms with their burgeoning sexuality, we can look overseas to the work of acclaimed Mexican director, Alfonso Cuarón.

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`Knocked Up´ (Judd Apatow, 2007)

Marriage is like a tense, unfunny version of Everybody Loves Raymond, only it doesn’t last 22 minutes. It lasts forever.

Judd Apatow’s heart-warming comedy is virtually the same story as Juno, only set a decade later.

Seth Rogen, an unproductive and rudderless stoner, is even less responsible than Michael Cera’s nervy teen – though both have their hearts in the right places.

Katherine Heigl is every bit as convincing as Ellen Page in the role of reluctant mother who comes to embrace her new-found responsibility and the joy it will give her, as well as the unlikely partner who will accompany her on this journey.

Have a look at this article if you want to watch some great movies like ‘Knocked Up’.

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`Waitress´ (Adrienne Shelly, 2007)

Happy enough. I don’t expect much. I don’t get much, I don’t give much. I generally enjoy whatever comes along.

This film, which was released in the same year as the previous two, features a waitress who’s trapped in a dead-end job and struggling with her possessive husband in a loveless marriage. When she suddenly finds out she’s become pregnant, it’s the veritable icing on the cake.

However, the baby proves to be a blessing in disguise, since it brings Jenna into contact with a young (albeit married) doctor, establishes an unexpected bond between her and the child, and acts as the catalyst for her to take control of her own life.

Jenna begins the film as the victim, but through the initially unwanted pregnancy (and a couple of other fortuitous deus ex machinas), finds that she’s always had what it takes to live her own life how she chooses.

It is also similar to Juno in its frank and unapologetic treatment of subjects which may have been previously viewed as taboo; though her pregnancy is not as irresponsible as Juno’s, her affair with the doctor most certainly could be viewed in that light.

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`The Way Way Back´ (Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, 2013)

Owen: You’re fired!
Duncan: But I just…
Owen: [sticks out his hand] You make a valid point. Welcome back. With benefits.

In casting The Way Way Back, the two directors got their selections spot on. Steve Carell is even more of a douchebag than in The (American) Office and Toni Collette is excellent in her vulnerability, Allison Janney doesn’t miss a beat as the garrulous, imposing but well-meaning neighbour, while Sam Rockwell – fast becoming one of my favourite actors – is even more charming than usual with his pitch-perfect delivery of some hilarious one-liners.

But the real plaudits should go to Liam James, a relative unknown before the film, who plays the part of an awkward teen struggling to meet society’s expectations and find comfort in his own skin. Whether he’s seething silently at his mother’s boyfriend, attempting to wow a group of break dancers with his so-lame-it’s-good dancing, or clumsily making advances on the neighbour’s daughter, young James is absolutely flawless throughout.

Michael Cera eat your heart out.

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`The Spectacular Now´ (James Ponsoldt, 2013)

The best thing about now, is that there’s another one tomorrow.

In an era when irreverent and silly movies such as Superbad are coming thick and fast, it’s refreshing to see the more serious sides of growing up addressed in a mature, yet still entertaining, fashion.

Juno achieved it with teenage pregnancy; The Spectacular Now does so with teenage alcoholism and the ensuing problems it can bring on.

Commendable for its unpredictable nature, the film focuses on how the class clown will eventually have to stop trying to make others laugh and actually grow up – or face the consequences.

Sound good? Make sure to also have a look at these other movies similar to ‘The Spectacular Now’.

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`Y tu mamá también´ (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)

Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.

Not all good movies to watch if you like Juno are in English.

This films differs from the others not only in its language, but also in the genre. Though Y tu mamá también contains various funny scenes and moments, it is surely not a comedy.

Instead, this drama follows the developing sexuality of two young friends as they go on a road trip with a sultry older female – and how these developments inevitably affect their own friendship.

The characters involved could hardly resemble those played by Michael Cera and Ellen Page any less – but as in Juno, they’re real people exploring aspects of themselves they were previously unaware of, and these aspects have the potential to change the course of their lives drastically.

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More, More, More?

What other movies dealing with pregnancy, sexuality, or growing pains have I missed? How about ‘Away We Go’ and similar movies?

There are a ton out there – help us find them in the comments section below.

**For a video playlist of the recommendations, please click here.

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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