Auteur of the Week – Jason Reitman

I went to a screening of Thank You For Smoking in February of 2006 because I was a big fan of his father, Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop, etc.) and wasn’t sure what to expect. I ended up really loving the film and actually got to meet Reitman afterwards and told I thought it was an amazing debut feature film and I looked forward to seeing more from him in the future. Jump to over four years later and he’s now a four-time Oscar nominee, twice for directing. Suffice to say, he has not let me down.

Reitman was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His mother is Geneviève Robert and his father is director Ivan Reitman. Towards the end of the 1980s, Reitman dabbled in acting and served as a production assistant on his father’s films, specifically spending his time editing rooms in order to  learn the process. During his 20s, Reitman made his own short films and directed commercials instead of accepting offers to make commercial feature films. He was offered the opportunity to direct Dude, Where’s My Car? twice, declining both times. Reitman graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School in 1995 and majored in English/Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.

Apparetly, Reitman asked many of his actors and actresses that he wanted to star in the film  by writing each of them a personal letter; every one of his first choices accepted their part and most thanked Reitman for his letter. He also convinced stars Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy and Rob Lowe to sign on to the film with minimum pay. The film had a $6.5 mil budget and grossed almost $40 mil. The film received almost universal acclaim from critics and currently has an 84% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was nominated for two Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical Aaron Eckhart. Ekhart was also nominated for Best Male Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards and Reitman won the award for Best Screenplay. Reitman also won the Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review, Best First Feature from the Toronto Film Critics Association and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay by the Writers Guild of America, among several other wins and nominations. I really enjoyed this film. I liked the entire cast, but was especially wowed by Aaron Eckhart. Other than his stellar turn in 2008’s The Dark Knight, I think it is his best performance. I was kind of shocked that the film didn’t receive any love whatsoever from the Academy, though. I thought at least the screenplay would get a nomination for sure.

A friend of Reitman’s sent him the screenplay, the first written by Diablo Cody, and after reading half of he apparently stated, “he felt that if he did not direct the film, he would regret it for the rest of his life.” He initially had trouble acquiring the rights to film it because his first film had not been released yet, so he had no directing credits to his name. Eventually, he did, however, but then ran into another problem finding a studio to back the project. Eventually John Malkovich’s production company Mr. Mudd took on the project as well as Mandate Pictures. Reitman cast Ellen Page in the lead because he was impressed by her work on the indie film Hard Candy. When Jennifer Garner signed on to star, she agreed to a lower salary than usual so the film could stay on budget. The film had a $6.5 – $7 mil budget and went on to gross $231 mil worldwide. It receive universal acclaim and holds a 93% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film appeared on almost 20 critic Top Ten lists, including the #1 spot on Roger Ebert’s list. The film was nominated for multiple awards including three Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical as well as four Independent Spirit Awards: Best Feature (won), Best Female Lead Ellen Page (won), Best First Screenplay (won) and Best Director. Page and Cody also won awards from the National Board of Review. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards – Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Actress Ellen Page, Best Director and Best Picture. I really enjoyed this film. I saw it twice in theaters, once at a screening in Berkeley wherein Ellen Page appeared and held a Q&A. I thought it was a really wonderful ensemble piece, but I particularly liked the performances of Page, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner.

After some confusion about how much of the script was written by Reitman and how much was written by author of the book on which the film was based, Sheldon Turner, the two shared credit for the film’s screenplay. The film premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and wound up on countless Top Ten lists, received numerous nominations (wikipedia has a great page with all the film’s accolades) and currently holds a 90% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes: Best Actor in  Drama George Clooney, Best Supporting Actress Anna Kendrick, Best Supporting Actress Vera Farmiga, Best Director, Best Screenplay (won) and Best Motion Picture Drama. Farmiga, Kendrick and Clooney were all nominated for Screen Actors Guild Awards. The National Board of Review named the film the Best Film of the year as well as Reitman for Best Director, Kendrick for Best Supporting Actress and Clooney for Best Actor. Reitman received his very first Best Director nomination from the Director’s Guild of America and the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, although it did not win any: Best Supporting Actress Anna Kendrick, Best Supporting Actor Vera Farmiga, Best Actor George Clooney, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. I really loved this film. It was one of my Top Ten films from last year. I particularly loved Kendrick character and her performance. It really struck a chord with me at the time, and still does. I think about her character and the “post-college life crisis” she’s going through. I feel like it’s a subject often talked about in passing in films, but one that happens to so many people in their lives. I thought the film was pitch-perfect and by and far Reitman’s best film. It’s definitely one of George Clooney’s best performances.

Reitman’s next film, according to IMDb, is entitled Young Adult and will star Charlize Theron from a screenplay by Diablo Cody. The film is currently in pre-production and is set to be released in 2013.

If you’re interested in buying any of Reitman’s films, you can do so here.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on September 21, 2010, in Auteur of the Week and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Oddest moment of my TIFF experience? Going to get on to the Toronto subway late on a Friday night and watching Jason Reitman come off the car I was about to get on.

    Dude’s an Oscar nominee…what’s he doing on public transit?

  2. I absolutely love your articles and thought I’d leave a comment for once.

    I shared the same feelings when I say his first movie, though I wasn’t as lucky as you to actually meet him. I have yet to watch Up in the Air (mainly due school work always getting in the way) but I’m definitely putting on my list to watch next 🙂

    Pretty useless comment but I just wanted to convey my appreciation 🙂

  3. Loved Juno. Loved Up In the Air – it was my pick for best picture until I saw The Hurt Locker. I thought Up in the Air was timely on several levels.

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