Don’t go into this film thinking it is a witty comedy when what it is actually is is a touching film about a loner who is detached from his family and his only semi-real human contact are the one night stands with women in the various cities he travels to in his job. What makes the film work is its three main actors. George Clooney does a great job portraying a lonely man who loves a job that many would find disgusting. Vera Farmiga is sexy and smart as a female version of Clooney’s character. Finally, newcomer Anna Kendrick perfectly displays the naiveté required of her character. Everyone, including director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking), on the film is pitch perfect.
When companies need help downsizing (i.e. firing employees) they call on the company Ryan Bingham (George Clooney – Syriana, Ocean’s Eleven) works for. Ryan Bingham is one of the best at a job that essentially boils down to firing people. As a result Bingham travels frequently – very frequently. So much so that he is never home and his life goal is to rack up enough frequent flyer miles that the airline puts his name on one of its planes. As a secondary job Bingham is a motivational speaker who talks about ridding yourself of emotional and physical baggage.
The only connection Bingham makes is the hook ups that happen with women while he’s staying at hotels on the road. While at the bar at one of the many hotels on the road he stays in Bingham meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga – The Departed, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), a woman who travels as much as him because of her job. Somehow Alex is different than the myriad of other women and they make a connection. Despite the fact that they travel a lot the two plan to meet up at a later date.
Despite its unsavoury nature Bingham truly loves his job. When his boss (Jason Bateman – Extract, The Invention of Lying) hires a young girl (Anna Kendrick – New Moon, Rocket Science) who proposes that they no longer fly out to companies to fire people, but advocates developing software that allows them to do it via computer Bingham is upset. He obviously doesn’t know any other life than being on the road. More disturbing is when his boss tells Bingham to take Natalie around to teach her the ropes of firing people.
Oddly enough while he is teaching Natalie the ins and outs Bingham begins to see the shallowness of his own existence. Now Bingham has to decide what to do about the way he lives his life, the job he does and most importantly what he should do about Alex.
“Up in the Air” is a film filled with subtlety and heart. It’s surprising. At least it surprised me. It was nothing like I expected it to be. There was none of that usual Clooney smugness or glibness to it. It wasn’t smooth or slick. Actually it was the exact opposite. And that is exactly what I liked about it. It wasn’t cool, but it was real.
The job that Montreal born Jason Reitman does at the helm of this film also has to be mentioned. This is only his third feature film and he keeps showing what a great eye and way of telling a story he has. None of his films are your typical Hollywood fare. They are all about average people in different life situations. He shows that great stories don’t need special effects, blue aliens or budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars. What usually connects with viewers are films with characters they can relate to and engaging stories.
-Shadowplay: Before the Story
-Thirteen deleted scenes with optional commentary by Jason Reitman
-Music video: “Help Yourself” by Sad Brad
-American Airlines Prank