Wednesday, August 25

Pulling Rabbits: On Jason Reitman

There seems to be some sort of divide in indie music nowadays. On one side there are the bands that play noisy, rough pop with harsh and streetwise lyrics, inspired by The Velvet Underground. Think The Black Keys, The Dirty Projectors and Mark Lanegan. On the other side is passive-aggressively sweet music which sounds smooth as butter, inspired by The Beatles. Think Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Air.

What this has to do with movies? Well, I think the divide can be noted there as well. Think of Darren Aronofsky, Lars von Trier and (arguably) P.T. Anderson in the first vein, and Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson in the second. The directors in the second category often even incorporate the music of the second category in their movies. So what has any of this to do with Jason Reitman? Well, I think he might use the "smooth" style both more true to form and better then anyone nowadays.

Despite his rapist beard.

Jason Reitman has directed three movies so far: Thank You For Smoking, which was about lobbyists, Juno, which was about teen pregnancy and Up in the Air, which was about the personal tragedy that the current economic crisis has caused. Yet Reitman has the cunning ability to make delightful comedies off of these heavy topics without making fun of them. The jokes arise from the characters themselves, not from the (rather dire) situations they're in. If anything, the lightness of his tone in juxtaposition with the brevity of his topics might just make them more palpable.

And his tone is very light indeed. The dialogues are incredibly smooth and snappy, the music is quirky and the colors are shiny and happy (although a little less so in Up In the Air). But there is always some inescapable solemnness in his scenes, something that keeps it from silly. Be it Juno's pregnant belly, be it the briefcase that George Clooney's character drags around in Up in the Air. To make the connection back to the music; it's the same I-don't-know-what that makes Belle and Sebastian songs so happy and so sad at the same time.

Or Calvin and Hobbes.

Reitman does a thing with comedy that the likes of Chaplin and Wilder have done in the past: mixing hilarity with important issues and getting away with it. I'm not sure whether he deserves a place among those giants jet, but if he continues this way I am sure he will get there.

Also, he finally has given J.K. Simmons some decent roles. That deserves some praise at least.


This was obvious.

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