Review: Jason Reitman’s One-Joke Short Film Consent (2004)

jason reitman consent (2004)
Judah (Todd Waldman) and Penny (Rachel Vacca) are about to get it on after a successful date. Before they can have any kind of sexual activity however they need… A condom? Nope, a sexual consent form. What’s that? Basically just a list of all the things Judah wants to do to Penny, and vice versa. While they’re at it, why not let their lawyers review the contract? Though it does ruin the mood a little. Once the two college kids went over every little detail of what they’re about to do, they’re ready to go, but surprise, surprise: Penny’s roommate walks in. 

Before Jason Reitman‘s debut feature Thank You For Smoking (2005), followed by his indie smash hit Juno (2007) written by Diablo Cody, he directed short films, like most directors do. Consent is a 6 minutes comedic short with basically one joke throughout. It works because the film is so short, but would be easily played out if it’s runtime were only doubled. Even at this stage of his career you can see some of the characteristic stylistic trademarks that went on to define his career in brilliant films like Up in the Air (2009) and Young Adult (2011).

Even if it’s just a one-joke film, Consent‘s dialogue is hilarious and top-notch, like you would expect from his later films. There’s something very specific about his sense of humor, which I love and appreciate every time. There’s an irony and a certain worldview that resonates with me and is always very timely and poignant. Already he’s working with cinematographer Eric Steelberg, who went on to shoot all of his pictures (except his debut, which he then regretted as he’s stated in interviews). I love how he uses light and of course, I just adore lightstand lamps.

The look and feel of Consent is typical for Reitman even this early on. Beyond inspired aesthetic and stylistic choices, there are recurring themes and protagonists that he went on to further explore and refine later on. Mostly it’s his fascination with unlikable characters. The lawyers in this film are definitely annoying, but their quick-witted and sharp argumentative skills are what draw the viewer in and make you feel like you want to spend more time with them. From this point of view his next feature (Thank You For Smoking) seems like a natural evolution in his filmography.

The way he likes to shoot intimate bedroom scenes on the other hand reminded me of Young Adult, when Mavis (Charlize Theron) returns to her hometown. It’s feels the same, but it’s shot differently. Almost as if we were spying the two characters from a keyhole, which seems apt, because are we really supposed to see what goes on in their bedroom? It also adds a layer of creepy and uneasy, not like in a horror film or anything, but still it’s not your typical approach to a comedy. Though Reitman was never one for conventional films. Jason Reitman, that is.

9 out of 10

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