I still feel a sense of adventure when I fly and this affects how I feel about its mechanics. I don't mind taking off my shoes at security and I guran-dang-tee you that I will, 90% of the time, be pulled aside for a random additional security check, though so far, I've managed to avoid the beige room with the two-way mirror. I don't care. To any who object, I'll just point out that some jackhole with a whackout bomb is going to be apprehended this way so buck up, arrive early, and learn to wear slip-on shoes already.
The only time I've been really peeved by any of this was when they wouldn't allow my unopened can of Coke through and that was more outrage over being forced to pay two bucks for the same thing at the vendors inside the security orbit rather than keep my .75¢ can. I'm just that cheap.
I've paid my traveling dues, losing hours waiting for delayed flights, arguing with pissy airline employees (twice on the phone to far off states on behalf of a family member who was literally waiting at the gate), and even running across football field lengths of corridor to catch an 11pm rickety twin-prop to Madison, WI (thank you O'Hare airport). Maybe I haven't had to fly as part of my job (everyone I know who has insists that it will rapidly change my feelings about flying), but I've had more than my fair share of complications and bad trips to consider myself a seasoned air traveler. And still I unequivocally love it.
In the movie UP IN THE AIR, George Clooney agrees with me – though with a lot panache because it's George. Here he plays Ryan Bingham, a man whose job is to travel around the country firing people. It's an empty and extremely satisfying life and he loves it. So does his perfect match, Alex Goran (Vera Farminga) whom he meets in a hotel bar (natch) through the tried and true mating ritual of comparing perk cards. They begin an affair conveniently managed by determining which city they'll both be in at the same time. Stockpiling frequent flyer miles with the eventual goal of achieving the millionth mile mark when the Captain Sully-like pilot actually comes and sits with you! (And Hel-lo Sam Elliott!) Our George is loving life.
Then modern progress and cheeky up-and-comer Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) ground him, prospectively for good. And suddenly, our boy George has to evaluate his not-as-great-as-he-thought life.
Full disclosure: I've been fired, sorry, downsized (makes it all sound better, doesn't it?) and it sucks, full stop. I even lost my mind a little both times (really, don't ask). So I couldn't watch this film unbiased. Each time I watched Clooney or Kendrick fire someone no matter how much humor or pathos Jason Reitman's great script brought to it I felt a pang and had nasty self-worth eradicating flashbacks.
This is a very nice film. And why wouldn't it be? It's hard to go wrong with Clooney. By now, his name on a project is an automatic – automatic green light, automatic money maker, automatic Oscar nod, automatic quirky humor, and so on. And I've been keeping tabs on Vera Farminga since seeing her excellent work in the doomed U.S. version of the fabulously creepy British import TOUCHING EVIL. (Jeffrey Donovan, better known at Michael Weston of BURN NOTICE, was also tapped for this one, an early attempt at original programming by the USA channel. Obviously, USA recognized the gold mine it had at the time because BURN NOTICE rocks hard, almost if not completely because of Donovan's incredible work. But I digress.)
UP IN THE AIR doesn't disappoint in these given automatics either.
Writer and director Jason Reitman has crafted a very smart, unapologetic script. And I could recount the various themes it espouses, but eh, I don't want to belabor what will be evident to anyone who watches it. Likewise, I'm not going to comment on its relevance to real-world scenarios at large, namely the recession, as better reviewers than I have already exhaustively explored that.
For me, what carries this movie are its two relationships, one romantic (Clooney to Farminga) and the other a mentorship (Clooney to Kendrick). And the revelations and humor, small come-to-Jesus moments and real emotional resonance abounding in these pairings is engrossing. These are two players at the top of their game and one newcomer quickly following in their path. It's a genuine pleasure to watch them expertly navigate through Reitman's story.
But like the companies Ryan Bingham represents, in the end, Reitman screws with you. You think you're going on a journey with these characters in one direction, watching George's heart grow three sizes as he comes to term with the dramatic turn in his life and the ensuing revelations it brings, and with a harsh mid-course correction, Reitman up and undoes all of it, metaphorically firing George just as he's finally learned where the copy paper is stored. And it works.
For the most part. There is one mind screw that I did not see coming and instead of thinking, "Huh, look at that. You got me," what I actually said, (yes, out loud) was "Hey – dirty pool Reitman!" Not just because George was heartbroken (poor baby) but because none of the buildup even minutely alluded to that moment. Which was likely the point. Argh. I think I just talked myself out of my gripe. Again.
Grudgingly, I'll admit that it thematically chimes along with the rest of the film. Many of the people shown being let go looked like they'd be hit by a Mack truck (a rare moment of art correctly representing life) and George likewise looks completely flattened in that moment. And then he still has to move on and live with it. But still, I claim foul.
All in all, UP IN THE AIR is smart, sad, and funny. Take two hours plus and go fly away with George and company. But be sure to bring along the antacids – just in case.
UP IN THE AIR is rated R for language and some sexual content.
Disclaimer: I was not provided any incentive to review this film. I rented it and watched it under my own volition and at my own cost. Satisfied alphabet agencies? Good. I aim to please.