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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Up in the Air

MOVIE REVIEWS

UP IN THE AIR (2009)

Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey, JK Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Lowell, Adam Rose, Tamala Jones, Sam Elliott and Young MC.

Written by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner.

Directed by Jason Reitman.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures.  109 minutes.  Rated R.

 

125X125

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Up in the Air 

The life of the frequent-flier business traveler is a swirl of sterile lounges, cheesy bars, local t-shirts and slow-moving casual tourists.  It is a lifestyle that is rootless, grueling and just occasionally sort of seductive. 

After all, what would it be like to travel for a living?  Hit cities all over the country and the world.  See life in all its squalor and glory.

However, most of my friends who have done it for any amount of time say that it loses the romance quickly.  The airports are all the same, so are the hotels and bars, and eventually the tourism - if you ever had time for it - just becomes too much of a hassle.

Still, people do it every day.  And some people undoubtedly truly love it.

People like Ryan Bingham.

Beyond spending 322 days a year on the road, Bingham (George Clooney) has what may be the hardest job in the world.  He is a corporate hit man - an executive who is flown in to companies around the world to fire people - and then move on to the next downsizing. 

Bingham is a special person, though, because he actually loves the time on the road.  He knows all the tricks of constant travel, belongs to all the frequent flier programs and even has a goal of flying 10 million miles - so many miles that he will get preferred treatment for everything and a special club card that only six other people have achieved. 

The constant movement fits completely into his lifestyle, where he moonlights as a motivational speaker with a specialty in comparing life to a backpack you carry around on your back at all times.  Every person, every possession, every relationship are weighing you down, and only when you empty your backpack can you truly be free to move through life freely.

He hates being home in a purposely bland Omaha apartment that looks just like a hotel room, except the hotels take time for little homey niceties like paintings on the wall.  (However, he does have an impressive collection of liquor in little airplane bottles.)  He is completely commitment phobic and cynical towards relationships - which makes sense with his world philosophy.  Still, though he is getting older, he still is boyishly handsome, able to charm women around the country for a little temporary company on the road.

In his own way, Bingham tries to be somewhat humane in his cutthroat job - he is truly trying to make the worst day in most people's life somewhat more dignified.  He knows there is nothing he can do to help the people, but he will let them vent and pretend that he will be there to help them get back on their feet.  Of course, by the time the fired people realize that he can't do anything for them, he is on to the new city.

Problems start when a young hot-shot in his company named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick of Twilight) comes up with a money-saving idea.  Instead of having people flying all around the country all of the time, wouldn't it be easier to just have the job loss counselors do the dirty deed on computer video conference?

Bingham, being old school, feels it is a horrible idea.  Beyond the fact that he would suddenly be grounded, he realizes that his job needs the personal touch - doing it from a monitor thousands of miles away would be extremely cold.

Also confusing things is the fact that Bingham meets a fellow frequent-flier (Vera Farmiga) who for the first time has him feeling serious romantic heat.

Up in the Air - the third straight sharp and savvy film from writer/director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno) - is a perfect film time capsule for the 00s, just as the decade is ending.  It shows the technological advances and the loss of personal connections, the horrible job market and the rootlessness of so many people.

However, just because the film wrestles with some huge issues, that doesn't mean it is a dour, depressing affair.  Instead, the film is mostly light on its feet and upbeat.  Even when it does get somewhat melancholy it is in the ways that real life is sometimes tragic.  Also, the film is interesting in showing that its hero can still learn what is truly important in life - even when his most cynical beliefs are proven to be accurate.

Up in the Air has the good-natured affability of its leading man.  Even when the movie is at its most skeptical about life, business and love, you can't help but be seduced by its unique point of view.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 25, 2009.

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Copyright 2009   PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 25, 2009.