Thursday, December 10, 2009

Up in the Air (2009)

It appears Jason Reitman has made another movie about a charming white guy who's kind of a jerk. That's cool. In Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) makes his living firing people in a humane manner, flying all over the country and gaining a significant amount of miles in the process. He enjoys his jetsetting lifestyle and believes the one-on-one meeting between firer and employee is important, so when up-and-comer Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) advises their company to start firing people over video chat to save on traveling time and costs, Bryan takes it upon himself to bring her around the country on a series of face-to-face firing jobs.

He also takes up a casual relationship with fellow high-status corporate traveler Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), meeting erratically in whatever cities they happen to both be visiting. As Natalie gets to know Bryan, she is surprised by his self-imposed isolation from meaningful relationships, expressed convincingly in his motivational talks focusing on dropping all your "baggage". He begins to question his philosophy as he grows closer to Alex and re-connects with his family at his sister's wedding.

With Clooney's charisma anchored by the charms of Kendrick and Farmiga, this movie is doing pretty well personality-wise. The performances are excellent, with Clooney taking the lead of course but great turns from everyone else involved. I really liked Vera Farmiga, feeling she took a potentially flat character and gave her some depth (plus she has my name! It is uncommon for a main lady character to be named Alex!). And it was nice to see Anna Kendrick all grown up and not playing a bitchy person (I'd only seen her in Camp and Rocket Science). The interview-style scenes of various people getting fired were heartfelt and moving, enhanced by the fact that many of them were played by actual recently-fired people.

Up in the Air has good doses of humor and drama, with a decent story aided by an engaging cast. My biggest issue with it is I found it unfulfilling. This movie thinks it's deeper and more meaningful than it actually is, so by the end it just felt a bit empty. It does make some interesting observations about the nature of loneliness and relationships, as well as the seriousness of losing a job, but never goes far enough to actually make a definitive statement on any of these things, at least not to me. Everything hinged on a sort of by-now-cliche indie ambiguity. This isn't to say I didn't like the movie, it just didn't move me as much as I think it was supposed to. It's still very enjoyable and worthwhile, but not exactly "Best Movie of the Year" material.

Then again, the fact that George Clooney's character reminded me so much of my dad did throw a weird angle on the whole thing.



  1. Thanks for your review. Enjoyed this a lot.

  2. I liked it - wanted to love it - but liked it. One of Clooney's best performances, and some absolutely amazing work by Kendrick and Farmiga.

  3. Love your opening statement! So true!

  4. Haha thanks Vanessa! I call em like I see em.

  5. A well-acted piece about a man's inability to cope with a world more real than the one he lives. And the screenplay just keeps on getting better and better. Nice review, check out mine when you can!