It can be tough to grow up in the shadow of your parents’ success. Furthermore, when your father is comedy director Ivan Reitman, the challenge can be even greater. While Ivan directed such classic comedies as Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984), his son, Jason Reitman, has shown he has the skills to follow in his father’s footsteps. Perhaps the exposure to the film-making industry at such a young age is what helped develop Jason Reitman into the director he is today. Even though Jason’s films aren’t nearly as sophomoric as many of his father’s, they still have a sharp edge of comedy that he uses to examine many controversial topics. In fact, Jason’s ability to create meaningful comedies earned him a few Oscar nominations, an accomplishment his father never managed with the screwball comedies he created in the 1980s. This week’s two films highlight some of Jason Reitman’s best works.
Up in the Air
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours
Jason Reitman’s films have earned critical acclaim for their portrayal of the human condition. From teenage pregnancy to getting fired, these life-changing moments can also be filled with comedic irony. Certain themes, like family and relationships, have been a common occurrence in Reitman’s films, including Young Adult (2011), Men, Women & Children (2014), and Tully (2018). Perhaps the most relatable moments in life are what propelled his films like Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009) into critical success. Both earned nominations for Best Picture, as well as Best Director nods for Reitman. What sets these films apart from his other works is his ability to convey the decisions we make in our lives, as well as the ones made for us by entities outside of our control. In the end, films like Juno and Up in the Air focus on the most fundamental element of humanity: relationships.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has no home. He’s not homeless, but rather a businessman who travels and enjoys the experience so much that he doesn’t have a permanent address. As a minimalist, he gives motivational speeches about “What’s in Your Backpack?” to highlight how a life free of connections is liberating. Of course, the irony is that his job is to help companies fire their employees. He needs to travel to each of these businesses in person, as the termination process is something he feels needs to be done in person. When Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) introduces a video teleconference option, Ryan’s jet-set lifestyle might be in jeopardy. After attending his younger sister’s wedding and realizing that some amount of stability is beneficial, Ryan begins to rethink his philosophy of life.
Thank You for Smoking
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours
Ivan Reitman directed many films with ridiculous premises, like Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Junior (1994). This is probably why Jason Reitman’s first feature-length film, Thank You for Smoking (2005), carries some of this ridiculousness over into the next generation. However, Thank You for Smoking relies on taking a controversial idea to its ultimate and logical conclusion instead of merely asking the question of “what if?” no matter how crazy that question may be. This is perhaps the greatest difference between Jason Reitman’s films and the films of his father: Jason’s films feel like they could actually happen. Since Thank You for Smoking was still early in Reitman’s directing career, there is a political focus that can be implied from his father’s films (like Stripes (1981) and Dave (1993)).
We all know smoking kills, but that still doesn’t stop lobbyists like Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) from using his spin tactics to show there is no link between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. Granted, the study that shows this lack of correlation was funded by the tobacco lobby. Since anti-tobacco sentiments are growing, Nick travels to Los Angeles to convince movie producers to add cigarette product placements in their films. Ironically enough, even the former Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott) is dying of cancer and is against the advertising of cigarettes. With legislation to put a skull and crossbones on packages of cigarettes, Nick hits the talk-show circuit to preach consumer choice to the nation. He still holds these beliefs, even after an attempt on his life using nicotine patches to give him nicotine poisoning. Now that he can’t ever smoke again, he finds this is the right time to start his own firm.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 relatable Jason Reitman movies
Bacon #: 2 (Dave / Frank Langella -> Frost/Nixon / Kevin Bacon)