For anyone who’s not heard of Jason Reitman, he’s the bright writer/director behind tongue-in-cheek comedies Up In the Air and Thank You for Smoking. He directed Diablo Cody’s Oscar-winning script, Juno and her more melancholy comedy, Young Adult. His films, blanched with a fine indie touch, are dry takes on the micro-miasmas of life. Needless to say, he’s slowly building a style in Hollywood not too dissimilar with the Coen Brothers.
However, his next film seems to be a change of pace. Labor Day is a drama adapted from the 2009 novel about a depressed single mum (Kate Winslet) who falls in love with an intruding convict (Josh Brolin). Reitman’s light and funny turns to heavy and sentimental – a strange u-turn. He spoke to IndieWire about why he made the film:
“It’s a weird thing making movies because there’s usually one moment in your life, whether it happens young or late, where you get a sense of how people see you. Oh, that’s how people see me, they see me as that guy. And that happens every time you make a film.”
He’s clearly tackling perceptions of his work. Should we be ear-marking directors and writers as a certain type? As “that guy”?
“You make a film purely instinctively, you have a sense of what’s right, you finish it, you put it out into the world, and all of a sudden, having worked on it for years, people go “Oh, you’re now this and this happening in your life obviously and why did you do this?” I wanted to make a movie,” he added.
Writing and directing are personal ventures – subject to the whim and fancy of the artist. It’s not too shocking that someone would explore another genre. As Reitman says, he makes films “instinctively”. The big questions for us fans is whether this whimsical push to a new genre suits him.
The same question hangs over Darren Aronofsky – the sublime director of Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler. With so many heart-breaking beauties behind him, why’s he making biblical blockbuster, Noah? Once again, maybe we’re at fault at labelling directors. He told NY1.com that Noah is the foundation of his creative life because of a poem he wrote as a 13-year-old high school student.
“You don’t get many contemporary artists actually doing stuff with biblical themes, so I thought it would be very interesting to see what they came up with,” he said.
As strange it may seem that a man behind hard and heavy cinema turns to biblical epic, this acts as a reminder that creativity is polymorphous. However, unbridled creativity isn’t always the ticket to critical acclaim. Every director has a dud – are Aronofsky and Reitman taking an artistic risk?
The genre mix-up from this indie pair makes Labor Day and Noah all the more interesting. Reitman has every right to tackle a drama – his comedies have always had a strong dramatic undertone and a writer/director of considerable talent can surely do any genre competently. Aronofsky could do what Kenneth Branagh did with Thor – something brilliant but very out-of-character.
This definitely makes the next few weeks interesting.