In the midst of the holiday madness and long lines for AVATAR, I enjoyed a little escape into the quiet film, Up In The Air. If you at all travel with any frequency, you will immediately identify with the transient subculture of the airport community. For these migrant workers, no where and every where is home. Just returning from a long trip myself, I found myself smiling at the oddities of life that is present at all airports. Up in the Air is a depiction of life in transition. This story is more about the journey and less about the destination. Director Jason Reitman, known for Juno and The Office, has a knack for the idiosyncracies of a variety of subculture. His style is similar to Mike Judge of Office Space and Extract but he handles his material with a little more maturity and subtlety. As a fan of Juno, George Clooney, and of flying I was eager to see this film.
Up in the Air follows professional Ryan Bingham (Clooney), as he flies around the nation firing employees for various companies. He is a HR ‘gun for hire’ for the corporations too cowardly to handle layoffs themselves. He’s smooth and methodical as he guns down countless numbers of white-collar workers over a given year. Ironically, due to downsizing and the recession, his own line of business is threatened causing him to be indefinitely grounded. Natalie (Anna Kendrick) comes in to save the day as the hot-shot, young exec with a new way of doing business. Ryan is skeptical that she really knows what it takes to understand the art of firing, so they are sent back up in the air to learn from each other and discover the future of their industry. Along the way, Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), a sexy seasoned traveler that seems to be an equal counter-part to himself. Ryan’s own sense of isolation and independence is challenged as he spends time with Alex and comes to realize that there might be more to life than amassing AA Reward Points.
I found the first 2/3rd of this story very enjoyable. The life of his film is within the airport terminals, conveyor walkways, and first class seating. We all can identify with the theme of being totally surrounded and still feeling totally alone. The best moment in the film is when all three characters form an ad-hoc, dysfunctional family as they discuss life, love, and dreams. However, when the story goes from the air to the ground, you feel the momentum get grounded too. It goes into some relational conflicts with family and friends that feels all too familiar. The worst part is that the resolution felt unsatisfying. Some might not be bothered by it, but I couldn’t help but feeling I needed more. Despite the ending, this is still a well managed film and Reitman does a great job capturing the beauty and quickness of air travel. He creates an allure of life on the road (or in this case the air) that is counter to our clutter filled lifestyles. However, while it’s a baggage free life, eventually we all long to go home.
Up is a well casted film. This is a real breakout performance for Anna Kendrick. Her role as spunky, uptight, and vulnerable exec is a real light in this film. Unfortunately, I didn’t think they did enough with her in the final third of the film. She will no doubt be on the future young ‘Hollywoods hot list’. Big kudos for Clooney. He continually chooses roles that are original and challenging. He could have sold his soul to Hollywood for a premium but instead chose to build a continually impressive portfolio of performances. Skies the limit for him.
Overall I enjoyed this film but not nearly as I had hoped. Up in the Air was a successful flight but the engine sputtered out by the end which turned me off to a return flight. Lost in Translation with Bill Murray is a stronger film that captures the same ideas but with more charm and conclusion. If you see Up in the Air, go for the performances and for the underworld of air travel. It’s a decent 2 hour flight and that’s about it. I give it a 3 out of 5 Babbles.