“Up In The Air” is a fantastic new film by Jason Reitman. It includes some deep characters and an even deeper look at the modern day world. The hard-to-deal-with issues related to unemployment and the plummeted economy are showcased in a more humorous light. The character development of the movie is close-to-perfect and the entire film itself equals out to be an experience that is difficult not to enjoy.
The film introduces us to Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). To know him is to fly with him. He lives for flying. Roughly every 365 days, he participates in about 270 flights and is home for a grueling forty days or so. Ryan is a professional downsizer, meaning he is hired by company bosses to fly to all sorts of cities in order to lay off employees one by one. This way, more and more people will be effectively fired from their position and the company bosses will not have to deal with any of the guilt or shame that comes from doing the job themselves.
However, Ryan is someone who has hardly any sympathetic bones in his body for other people. He feels no emotion for the people whose lives he’s ruining every day. His lifelong dream is to acquire ten million frequent flyer miles, a feat which less than seven others have accomplished. He never plans on settling in any sort of serious relationship. His life is based around human misery all because that feeling does not equate with him. It sounds as if I’m describing him in more of a bad light than good, but even with all of this in mind while watching him onscreen, there is still certain likeability and charm to Ryan that is hard not to appreciate.
While relaxing in a hotel bar after one of his motivational speeches (another reason why he is constantly away), he comes across a woman named Alex (Vera Farmiga), who like Bingham is a frequent flyer. The two immediately hit it off, both fascinated by the other’s supposed “elite status.” Deciding that they should continue meeting each other, their relationship grows with every rendezvous in different cities and it is very interesting to watch this relationship unfold on screen. Clooney and Farmiga both have good onscreen chemistry because their characters are more or less the same sort of people with the same sort of aspirations.
Another plot point going on involves the company that employs Bingham, which is owned by the always-welcome Jason Bateman. One of the company’s young talents Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) proposes a new idea that not only makes their work possible, but also affordable. She plans to ditch the idea of wasting money by flying employees out for every mission and decides that the business should enter the digital age. The to-be-unemployed will now be laid off via webchat rather than in person. Upset by this idea, Ryan attempts to show her that flying is the only true way to take on the task. He takes her on a journey under his wing and shows her the ropes to what he knows best and what he likes best.
Anna Kendrick gives a great performance in the movie of a young woman who is very dedicated to her occupation but still has just as many problems as the next person. I hope to see more performances like this from her in the future (no, that doesn’t mean I want to see more “Twilight” movies). As far as George Clooney, 2009 has been his year. His deadpan serious, but intentionally funny performance in the underrated “The Men Who Stare At Goats” was my favorite aspect to that movie. The voice of Mr. Fox in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was pretty much tailor-made for Clooney’s smooth-talking prowess. This performance raises the bar for the other two, as Bingham’s development of character progressively gets more complex as the movie proceeds. The more his character unravels, the more sympathetic you are toward him, even if you don’t mean crap to him.
I still have yet to see “Thank You For Smoking” (Reitman’s 2006 debut), but based on his work that I have seen, I am pretty much convinced that this guy knows what he’s doing and will be considered one of the greatest directors in the near future. “Juno” was a brilliantly crafted, brilliantly written and all around perfect execution of the material that was presented. “Up In The Air,” while not as highly regarded personally as “Juno,” is still one of the smartest, wittiest movies I’ve seen for 2009.