Tuesday, October 13, 2015


The new series Casual, directed and executive-produced by Jason Reitman, is now on Hulu. Journalist and author Anthony Breznican joined Reitman at the Aero Theater last June for a discussion of Young Adult, the 2011 comedy-drama starring Charlize Theron that Reitman directed. 

Breznican started off by noting that Reitman's films do not take the sharp edges off their characters. Reitman agreed and noted that he's very much his father's (director Ivan Reitman) son, though they have different outlooks when it comes to making movies: his father's instinct is to want to make the audience feel better, while Reitman asks why there can't be movies that depress the audience. When questioned as to why he is drawn to characters like Mavis, Charlize Theron's main character in Young Adult, or George Clooney's character in Up in the Air, Reitman replied that many films are mirrors of our greatest qualities - they help the audience see those characteristics in themselves or make them want to strive for those attributes - while he wants to flip the mirror to show a character's ugliest qualities and humanize them. For the director, it's important to know that as humans no one is perfect, nor are we alone. During filming, he said it startled him a bit to recognize certain characteristics of his in both Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt's characters, but he feels it's just as important to portray those aspects of humanity as well. 
Reitman also spoke at length about working with both Charlize Theron and Diablo Cody. For the main role of Mavis, he needed an actress who would be brave enough to take on the character and not judge her, and Theron played it effortlessly. Reitman noted that it wasn't until this film that he was really able to feel relaxed as a filmmaker and appreciate the process, and it was during filming of Theron's breakdown scene near the end that he fully realized this. He watched in awe as she performed for an audience of one "before it would be an audience of many." That scene took only two takes: the first was for choreography, and in the second take, Reitman remembered, Theron nailed it with a perfect mix of ferocity and hilarity.

As for working with writer Diablo Cody, Reitman said he got along with her instantly; he recalled that it felt like he found a long-lost sister when he met her before filming Juno, which he partly attributed to being around the same age and having a similar worldview. Reitman said that he loves directing her scripts because he just gets her writing; he knows exactly how her stories are supposed to look and feel, and she's so specific in her scripts that they come ready to go. To Reitman, the most interesting part of Cody's writing isn't the dialogue, but rather the unexpected moments and reveals she includes that highlight a character's humanity.
Reitman also briefly discussed an alternate ending for the film. He mentioned that TBS recently picked up the film to play on television and had to make a few edits to fit the runtime. When asked what he wanted to cut, Reitman simply directed them to end the film early, after a scene in which Sandra (Collette Wolfe) asks to go with Mavis and Mavis replies: "You're good here." The line was actually producer Lianne Halfon's idea, and Reitman joked that if he could remake the film, he would call it You're Good Here.
He also mentioned the movie is partly a love story between Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt's characters, and when both actors started reading the parts together, he noticed they had instant chemistry. Reitman referred to a scene in the movie in which both are lying in bed, noting how beautiful the scene was and how perfect the two are together, but the next morning, Oswalt's character is treated like all the others Mavis goes through. Indeed, one of the main questions of the movie is whether we are capable of change. Reitman thinks we are only in small ways, and it's up to us whether or not we capitalize on those changes when a chance presents itself. In regards to Mavis, she's given the possibility of change and meets characters with whom she could be happy, but she simply lets it pass her by. 

When asked if Reitman ever thinks about the future of his characters, he was quick to say that he doesn't. To him, his characters are simply manipulative devices meant to make the audience feel and look at their lives in a certain way. He doesn't think of the character's lives or ponder what happens to them apart from what is written for them. 
One of the questions from the audience touched upon the fact that Reitman frequently writes, produces, and directs his films - how does he manage all of that? Well, for him, writing and directing goes hand in hand because it's the same process. As for producing, he says some of the responsibilities fall into his lap - he helps with budgeting, casting, etc. - but he also works with a brilliant team of producers that he thinks of as family.