Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Best: Director of All Time #21 - Jason Reitman

photo by GDC Graphics

-Thank You For Smoking

-Up in the Air

-Young Adult

Jason Reitman, son of legendary comedy director Ivan Reitman, is still very early in his career.  But his skill as a storyteller carry with them years of wisdom.

Reitman tends not to focus on large, epic scale films.  He instead explores human drama.  And here is where he uses the full measure of his talent.  Visual spectacle is fairly easy to pull off with a large budget and an action-oriented film.

But Reitman makes visually beautiful films that revolve around characters living in the most basic settings.

His first big feature was Thank You For Smoking, which is probably the most successfully realized satire since Wag the Dog.  Reitman wisely takes the slimy main character and makes him charming enough and relatable enough for us to stick with him the whole movie.  He doesn't idealize the smooth-talking liar, but he infuses him with a great deal of humanity.

But his best movie is Juno.  On its surface it is a simply dramedy about teen pregnancy.  A lot of attention has been paid to Diablo Cody's unique dialogue in the script.  But Reitman deserves the lion's share of the credit.  He knew exactly how to create humor, drama, and tension in the right proportions.

And his subtle use of the camera to manipulate is wonderful for how invisible it is.  There are so many small ways he changes the height of the camera or the area of focus to create a very specific feeling without being showy.

In addition, he infuses a lot of quirky energy into his shots.  When you finish Juno, you know that you haven't seen a movie quite like it.

His skill for visual storytelling improved with Up in the Air, but the movie lacked the uplift that Juno had.  And then Young Adult was his attempt to go dark and ironic, which was a mistake.

Reitman's main power is he can take the everyday world that most of us live in and make it beautiful.  That is no easy feat for a director.

1 comment:

  1. Wait, so a guy makes a couple of ok movies and he is now "One of the Greatest Directors of All Time!?????. You do know there were movie directors before the 1990s, right? This guy has almost no catalog whatsoever, and although Juno was decent how can he possibly be called one of the greatest of all time?