Is Diablo Cody’s “Juno” the year’s best picture?

You gotta hand it to her: Diablo Cody, the Minnesota blogger/stripper/tattooed raconteur turned Hollywood screenwriter, has a way with words. At last night’s sneak preview of “Juno,” her new motormouthed teen-pregnancy comedy opening tonight at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis, she answered questions from the fawning Walker Art Center audience with the same kind of in-your-face frankness that earned her screenplay a Golden Globe nomination the same day.

Did she ever worry about pregnancy when she was a teen, someone asked. “No,” she quickly replied. “I always double-bagged it.” And she ain’t talking about her groceries, folks. Outfitted in leopard-print jacket and pants baggy enough to hide her sneakers, Cody offered up her favorite Minneapolis strip club (the Seville), suggested she wasn’t quite sober, and offered insights–because so many people asked–into the movie’s lovable young co-star, Michael Cera. “I think he’s pretty much hairless,” she said.

In Hollywood, where images are crafted as carefully as the films, Cody is refreshing: She’s always 100 percent honest and upfront, she says. (So if she’s lying–about that, or the claim that she wrote “Juno” mostly in the cafe of the Target in Crystal–we’d never know.) What’s interesting is how refreshing this insistence on frankness comes across onscreen, in the lead character, who cuts to the conversational chase with a fearlessness that makes almost every other screenplay this season seem belabored. It’s clear why Cody has come this far: Nothing’s funnier or more winning than a smart chick who tells it like it is. The only worry, over time, is that it’s wearing. Life isn’t one big strip club, after all, where we all lay mutual goals–getting paid or getting off–clearly on the table. It calls for discretion, once in awhile. The best thing about “Juno” is that it knows when to slow down and get vulnerable.

So is “Juno” worth the hype? As the lead would say, hell’s yeah. But the movie strikes me as a “Garden State”–a surprising, singular vision, with great stars. It’s probably even better, despite a few less-than-convincing scenes, with more tension and a more satisfying twist. It’s still a small film, and I don’t feel a need to see it again in order to bite off more. I got it, and it was tastier than I expected. Ultimately it’s more about Cody’s philosophy of forthrightness–that honesty is not only the best policy, but funny as hell. And like anything else shocking, it loses something with repetition.

(Photo of Diablo Cody: Cameron Wittig for Walker Art Center)

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