Friday, March 5, 2010

Out on a Lim

Slate writer Dennis Lim goes after film director Jason Reitman with a meat axe , and this a fervor that stumbles beyond criticism of a director's style or his aestheticized world view. Lim sounds like he's trying to settle a score, a slight Reitman may have given him, real or imagined. Or worse, it might be that he's  not talking about Up in the Air at all but is rather responding to friends who, perhaps, have talked about Reitman's nominated too often for to long as they engaged in their Oscar buzz. The piece reads like a resentful inventory of Last Words On The Subject he hasn't yet been able to lay down. He certainly wants to make Reitman the enemy of the good; his little tear against the alleged anti-abortion elements in Juno, for example, are a rather third-rate bit of leftist film criticism with it's glandular obsession with subtextual political messages. I frankly didn't sense any of that and assumed , like most others who were impressed with Reitman's light touch on the material that he was more interested in a story about a teenager who decides to keep the baby she discovers she's carrying.

Not every pregnant teenager decides to get an abortion, and there is no requirement that movies about them wind up with sad, violent, tragic consequences. It's a young girl making a decision to keep her child and becoming aware of the irony of realizing that what had you assumed about your life was based on received ideas; experience changes each paradigm one might have wanted to live in forever. It was to Reitman's credit that he could deal with these complications without resorting to the expected kick in the stomach and the blow to the head , metaphorically speaking; he found another way to tell this tale. He wasn't arguing one side or the other, but rather examining a character's response to a life changing event. I imagine Lim is Pro Choice and find it disquieting that he'd resort to such ramped up charges about some who made a decision on the matter. Had the girl opted for an abortion and Reitman in kind retained the ironic and fetching tone, would Lim had reacted with equal outrage?  Maybe, maybe not.

It didn't bother me that the terrain here was not believable--these are movies, fictions, made up narratives where we are have to willingly suspend our disbelief. The issue is whether within the style and rationale of the narrative style the story incidents are plausible. For this fable, the events are plausible enough. I believed these idealized characters would behave this way. The shame is that the subtlety of Reitman's movie made Lim steam and worked himself into a labored snit. He needs a sense of humor,he needs to lighten, he needs, perhaps, to get another job.High blood pressure isn't worth the effort to argue these petty grievences with such moral righteousness.