Friday, December 4, 2009

Movie with Abe: Up in the Air

Up in the Air
Directed by Jason Reitman
Released December 4, 2009

Every year there are films that impress due to their technical achievements, stylistic choices, and standout performances. Movies with exceptionally weighty or important premises go far because they’re buzz-worthy and elicit conversation. And then there are the movies that unsuspectingly come in under the radar, that take a simple idea, run with it, and excel in every aspect. “Up in the Air” is just that, and it’s an altogether delightful and fantastic portrait of one man, as the tagline says, ready to make a connection.

George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a motivational speaker whose day job involves flying to companies around the country and firing employees for them. He’s an expert traveler whose goal is to reach ten million frequent flyer miles. He doesn’t go everywhere to see the world and visit treasured locales and historical monuments. In fact, there’s little mention of Ryan’s appreciations of the places he goes, and when he’s asked to take pictures of a cardboard cutout in front of famous spots, he spouts off a great deal of knowledge about where he is without seeming to care that he’s actually getting to see and appreciate something significant. He’s a fan of his lifestyle because he thrives on living on the go and enjoys not being tied down.

The film, on the other hand, is remarkably grounded in the very logical and coherent manner in which Ryan’s journey is presented. He’s extraordinarily prepared for his life on the move and revels in being a member of every platinum rewards club for which he’s eligible. Ryan is someone who has learned how to create his own sense of stability in his ever-changing life. He’s unprepared, however, for the attempt a plucky young employee named Natalie at his company makes to keep him in one place by shifting his job to a remote one and grounding him permanently. His continued efforts to maintain the way he operates, and Natalie’s refusal to stop pushing back, are what make this trip worth taking.

George Clooney is great at playing the likeable everyman, and this is easily his best performance to date. He’s extraordinarily sympathetic, and the way he spouts his motivational material and seems to believe it is incredible. Ryan’s kindred spirit Alex is embodied by the lovely and talented Vera Farmiga, who also turns in a stunning performance and has marvelous chemistry with the debonair Clooney. Rising star Anna Kendrick more than holds her own against the far more experienced actors as the game-changing Natalie, whose inability to cut loose is mixed with a bizarre charm and allure. Her interactions with Clooney are absolutely hilarious, and their bickering-prone dynamic provides the heart of the film. As a film, “Up in the Air” is moving, funny, and altogether enjoyable. Like Jason Reitman’s previous films, “Thank You For Smoking” and “Juno,” this one is a cut above the rest, in an elite class that should be distinguished from economy class.


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