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Martin Varsavsky

Martin Varsavsky

Posted: February 25, 2008 06:54 PM

Want a Great Movie Made About Something Bad? Jason Reitman Is Your Director


First Jason Reitman comes up with a cute, funny and wrong apology of the tobacco industry called Thank You For Smoking and gets away with it. This feat is followed by a cute, funny movie about teenage pregnancy called Juno. The movie wins an Oscar and makes over $100M in the box office. What next Jason? A cute and funny movie about the Iraq war?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Thank You For Smoking and Juno because the acting was excellent and both scripts were fantastic. My problem, and that of millions of parents of teenagers (my three older kids are 13, 15 and 17) is that not only I had to give my kids the "but smoking is still bad" talk after watching Thank You For Smoking but I had to give them a tougher "don't try this at home" talk after Juno's charm had invaded our home. The issue of unprotected sex, abortion and adoption is a complicated one in every country and I could not accept Juno as a role model for my kids (this tiny post in my Spanish blog with 81 comments shows how thorny the subject is).

Two moral stands later, still struggling with the incorrect moral undertone of Jason´s films I would argue that I prefer movies that are easier to deal with as a parent. Films like Knocked Up for example in which people who do wrong things (mixing drugs and unprotected sex) truly look the part. What's so effective and yet so hard to morally deal with as a parent is that Jason Reitman's characters are so damn effective! Jason Reitman specializes in portraying appealing characters who unfortunately also do very wrong things like lobbying for tobacco companies and getting pregnant after a night of casual sex at 16. In Thank You for Smoking and Juno, Jason Reitman went way pass his father as a movie director of social subjects (dad did Kindergarden Cop) into a new political arena, one that is valid but thorny, namely that of showing people we like who do things that we don´t believe in. By now I think Jason is developing his own genre of political movies: how to make the public fall in love with what they (mostly) think it´s wrong. Recently another movie who was neither cute, nor funny but probably better than Jason Reitman's films had the same effect on me and that is the German film The Life of Others. The Life of Others, a must see, is the story of a "good" torture expert... if you can believe that such person can exist or be redeemed. And yet it´s effective because in the world of grown ups we do learn to see that most bad people have something good in them and viceversa. But in the age of black and white sometimes...black and white is good at least if you are watching the movie with your kids and feel obliged to say something. But considering that Jason Reitman is not a teacher, nor a preacher but a movie director who likes to reverse engineer our morals I have a recommendation to make to him. I think his next feature should be about Diablo Cody the Oscar winner script writer of Juno. I am ready to watch the cute and funny version of the story of how stripping can help finance a writing career that leads to an Oscar. Well maybe this is not Jason Reitman's fault after all and maybe I just have a tougher job to teach my kids that life is as Facebook says "complicated".

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