“Up in the Air”: Movie Review (2009)

1/01/2010 Posted by Admin

Movie Review

“Up in the Air”

Directed by Jason Reitman, written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner, 109 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” is about a man who would prefer to say up in the air, thank you very much. His name is Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his job is to fly around the country, enter gleaming skyscrapers and fire the unsuspecting corporate masses. He’s as good at this as he is at flying, the latter of which he has down to a science, as the movie reveals via the wit and calculated swiftness of Dana E. Glauberman’s beautifully efficient editing.

Reitman (“Juno,” “Thank You for Smoking”) wrote the script with Sheldon Turner, and what they offer is a movie that’s as much a comedy as it is a tragedy--both for Ryan, who has commitment issues, and for all those he fires due to the dire economic climate and the corporate downsizing that goes along with it.

For Ryan, the irony is that he is about to become a victim of downsizing himself when his boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), decides to take the advice of his latest employee--the young, determined and fiercely pinched Natalie (Anna Kendrick, wonderful)--and perform their lay offs via computer.

The idea is this: In order to save Craig’s company a fortune in traveling costs, his staff soon will sit in front of a monitor and a camera while the person about to be laid off will do the same somewhere else in the country.

But Natalie has it all wrong. As cold as Ryan’s job is, there’s a lot to be said about being in the same room with the person he’s about to let go. At the very least, doing so offers the human touch necessary to soften the blow. And that’s what Ryan is so good at. He is so smooth, some people leave with the feeling that he’s done them a favor (the film employs people who have been laid off in real life--they are not actors).

Beyond this, the idea of being grounded in Omaha, where he keeps a shabby apartment, is terminal to Ryan (pun intended), whose dream it is to be part of the 10 million mile club, and whose life in the air has allowed him to meet all sorts of women, one of whom recently has caused him to pause. Her name is Alex, she’s played with intelligence and a jolt of sexual heat by Vera Farmiga, and she’s essentially Ryan’s opposite--a mature career woman traveling the country who doesn’t mind a little sex on the side with the right guy.

But to what end? It’s that complication, the outstanding performances that spool from it and the fact that everyone here needs to grow up a bit (Clooney and Kendrick should receive Academy Award nominations here, and I’d be happy if Farmiga followed suit), that makes “Up in the Air” so satsifying, funny and rich. The addition of Ryan’s family, who barely know him, only adds to the undercurrent of what really matters in life. Is it time spent serving your own needs, or taking a risk and allowing others to come close? Pithy films would send a love letter to the latter, but Reitman makes a sound argument for each. It’s how he answers that makes “Up in the Air” one of 2009’s best films.

Grade: A

View the trailer for the movie "Up in the Air" below. What are you thoughts?

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  1. Suzila said...

    I loved this movie. Had to talk my hubby into seeing it with me, but he walked out of the theater after the show and we had lots to talk about. Very good acting, well done, liked Jason Bateman's character too...a 'grown up' role for him this time. Felt very sad for Ryan Bingham at the end. He got back as good as he gave, when it comes to love. His goals were very shallow...getting all those miles? What does that mean, and who cares about that. Good movie. I hope it nabs some awards.

  2. Admin said...

    For sure, Clooney is in it. So is Anna Kendrick. And the script--it's a shoo-in. More likely to come, such as Best Picture.

    We'll see.


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