This past weekend, I watched Juno. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year. (I’m not alone: Roger Ebert also loves it.) The film is just about perfect: funny, smart, well-acted, visually inventive, and well-written. Ellen Page, who plays the title character, will get the great bulk of attention and, most likely, an Oscar nomination. She deserves it.
But, in the process, director Jason Reitman likely won’t get the credit he deserves. In fact, the film works so well in large part because, as Ebert says, it has no extra scenes. Add that to the film’s winning visual style and it’s clear that Reitman has proven himself a master of the two things — style and final cut — that directors really can control.
In the context of this blog, it’s worth noting that Reitman is a self-described libertarian and that both feature films he has directed (he also did 2005’s Thank You for Smoking) have strong libertarian themes. Thank You For Smoking takes on nanny-state health activists and Juno‘s surprising but logical final scenes deliver a funny, telling picture human resilience in a situation where both liberals and conservatives would call for state intervention. (I can’t say much more without giving the movie away.)
Besides Reitman’s two films, however, I struggle to think of a decent live action Hollywood film in recent years with strongly libertarian themes. Unless someone can think of another nominee, in fact, I’d count Reitman alongside South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone as the best libertarian artist working in Hollywood today.