With the end of December (and the year) approaching, we come upon another of Jason Reitman’s Live Reads, hosted by Film Independent at LACMA. Only this time, the Live Read was not at LACMA; for December, Jason, Elvis Mitchell and the whole team moved to The Theatre at Ace Hotel, formerly known as the United Artists Theatre. Such an expanded venue could only be necessary for one film: The Empire Strikes Back.
It’s the second Live Read of the season, and creator/director Jason Reitman went in a different direction with his presentation of Barry Levinson’s Diner screenplay. Instead of curating a group of disparate actors, Reitman instead chose to select a group of performers with plenty of experience acting alongside one another: the cast of FX’s The League.
Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, but that’s barely relevant) spent the early days of his directorial career making some really well-regarded films. Even if Juno or Up in the Air haven’t received universal acclaim, there is evidence there of a quality filmmaker. All of which makes Reitman’s recent career trajectory so baffling. Reitman’s Labor Day was released at the end of January to pretty middling reviews; I described it as “conventional and entirely disposable,” and my opinion has not changed in the intervening months. It is surprising to see another feature from the director so quickly, but perhaps Reitman learned something from the earlier debacle. Perhaps he’s ready to come back stronger than ever with Men, Women & Children. Perhaps not.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s back; Jason Reitman’s Live Read series returned to LACMA tonight with a reading of the American Beauty screenplay by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood). Before the reading began, Reitman described this series as being “so much more fun than directing movies.” That must be especially true for the still-young filmmaker lately, as his last two movies have not been well-received; Labor Day was lifeless and uninspired, and his latest – Men, Women & Children – has gotten so many bad reviews that I haven’t even seen it yet. Me! I see everything.
Another month, another live read. This one actually wasn’t even supposed to happen. What’s more, I wasn’t supposed to be able to attend – I should have had rehearsal this evening. But the stars (and schedules) aligned and Jason Reitman and I found ourselves face-to-face (with several yards in between) once again, this time for a reading of the script for The Graduate, written by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.
Welcome! To Stockholm Syndrome: The Movie.
Or, Labor Day. The film is adapted and directed by Jason Reitman, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard. I was aware of the middling reviews the film received, but I have an appreciation for Reitman’s previous films. I hoped that there might be some silver lining that half of the critics weren’t catching; surely Reitman brought some of his creative charm to the experience. Right?