That USA Today profile on Jason Reitman, penned by IC friend Anthony Breznican, was still simmering in my mind recently when an acquaintance mentioned an intriguing comparison Breznican made on his Facebook page. “To me, this guy is the next Billy Wilder,” Breznican wrote of Reitman. “His films are hilarious, but also peer uncompromisingly into our darker sides.”
I turned it over in my head a few times and, ultimately, I couldn’t think of a reason to disagree. One of Wilder’s most defining characteristics was his versatility, so it’s a bit early to draw a parallel there. That having been said, “Thank You for Smoking” is an entirely different film with drastically different themes than “Juno,” and “Up in the Air” looks to take things in a new direction yet again.
Wilder may have exhibited less flash than Reitman, but he also placed a considerable emphasis on the screenplay. Despite Reitman’s panache (which is by no means overstated), his films, so far, have been very much made in the writing. And I’m with Breznican. It’s hard to argue that Reitman isn’t in some way interested in what lurks beneath the surface of daily niceties.
It’s certainly there in “Thank You for Smoking.” And whatever your opinion of “Juno” (which became the victim of negative revisionism the moment it landed Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director), that film, too, has an austere quality humming beneath the kitschy dialogue and idiosyncrasies.
Obviously it’ll take a few more films before we really start considering this idea. And, of course, it isn’t really fair to box a filmmaker in with comparisons, but Wilder is one of my all-time favorites, while Reitman is an exciting new talent I greatly respect. So I thought it was worth bringing up. “Up in the Air,” meanwhile, is “rumored” to play here at Telluride over the weekend.