"I wonder what people will blog about after this," director Jason Reitman pondered aloud in the middle of a freewheeling Q&A Tuesday night after a screening of his new film, "Young Adult."
The marquee at the New Beverly Cinema read simply "Surprise Screening," but inside Reitman was presenting "Young Adult" to a public audience in Los Angeles for the first time. Announced Saturday via the New Beverly website, the show was the finale of a two-week run of such "pop-up" screenings at venues in Toronto, Minneapolis, Chicago, Austin and San Francisco before the film's limited theatrical release Dec. 9. A limited edition poster by a local artist in each city was given away to audience members.
Joining Reitman onstage before and after the screening were stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser, along with the film's writer, Diablo Cody. (Oswalt took to his Twitter feed later in the evening to say, "that was the full-throttle drunk-est Q&A I've ever done.")
As the film opens, Mavis Gary (Theron) is struggling to finish, or even start, the final book in her series of young adult novels. Impulsively heading from her apartment in Minneapolis to the small Minnesota town where she grew up, she strikes up a wary friendship with a guy she ignored all through high school (Oswalt) while trying to rekindle a relationship with an old flame (Patrick Wilson), whose wife(Reaser) just had a baby.
"Young Adult" reunites Cody and Reitman after their previous collaboration as writer and director on the smash hit "Juno." Aware that whatever they did together next would be compared with "Juno," Reitman said that "this movie you can't compare to anything," and likened its mix of tones to "an ugly mirror" reflecting back upon each viewer.
Many assumed that "Young Adult" would premiere at September's Toronto International Film Festival, where his previous three features have shown. (Reitman's family is also a substantial donor to the festival; the new Lightbox facility where "Young Adult" screened post-festival sits on Reitman Square.) The plan to skip festivals altogether in launching the film, opting instead for the pop-up screenings to "make our own film festival," as Reitman put it, is an unusual move, especially for a film looking to launch a carefully calibrated awards run.
"I think the struggle that we go through with every movie we do is how to do something that's unique and speaks to the movie and captures the right audience and gets the right amount of attention because you're doing something that's new," Megan Colligan, president of domestic marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the movie, said outside the New Bev after the screening.
"A lot has been made of this idea that 'Up in the Air' started [in Toronto] and got a lot of heat and it was too much to sustain," Colligan said, alluding to the much-touted film's failure to take home any Oscars in 2010 despite six nominations.
"But it's actually a ton of energy you have to put in whenever you launch a movie in September and you don't release the movie until December and you have to screen and do Q&As for such a sustained amount of time. Doing 'The Fighter' and 'True Grit' last year and having very successful campaigns that started really late, we realized there was something fun about introducing yourself to the world at a time that really suited the campaign for the film."
"Often at this point in the process you feel like a salesman instead of a filmmaker," noted Reitman, "and all I've felt on this tour is I'm a filmmaker sharing my movie. I feel different. I feel like a different person in this process."
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: Patton Oswalt co-stars in Jason Reitman's "Young Adult." Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times