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Halfway through this movie I considered it an 8 out of 10 and decently
spent money. The second half came as a big surprise. George Clooney let
go of all his suave and let his eyes show fear and isolation that real
There were two things going on in this movie. On one end, we were looking at the people getting fired. On the other end, we were seeing the problems with Ryan's way of life. The interviews at the end with the people who lost their jobs explaining that it was family and support that brought them through bad times hit a perfect note for bringing both parts of the story together.
The title of this film literally explains what it is like to not know what aspects of your life are solid, such as a home or a significant other. Everything going on is simply up in the air. One day, what you thought was one way will turn out to be something else entirely.
Best of Reitman's three. Very much recommend it.
Based on the novel by Walter Kirn, George Clooney stars as corporate
downsizing expert Ryan Bingham, who is hired to help ease the
transition of long-term employees to the unemployment line across the
country. Taking his job very seriously and loving the 290 days away
from homethe only problem with that is the 70 days at home in his
empty apartmenthis world gets turned upside-down when a young upstart
in the company threatens to ground the company to fire people via the
internet. Not standing for a change in his life, nor the chance for his
life goal of total airline miles to end, ("Let's just say I have a
number and I haven't hit it yet"), he goes on a mission to prove how
personal his job is and how key a face to face meeting can be to talk
down an emotionally unstable person and really do the victim a service
in an otherwise horrible moment in his life. Along the way, he and the
recent college grad, of which the boss loves due to her budget slashing
game-changing idea, Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, both find out
what has been lacking in their lives and how to become better people,
opening up to love, heartbreak, and the need to grow up.
Clooney's Bingham is the loner businessman whose only relationships exist from random meetings with attractive females at the multiple airports he frequents. His wallet of plastic has become his lifebloodcredit cards from airlines that accumulate his mileage, hotel status perk cards that let him cut the disgruntled travelers and go straight to the front, and numerous room keys that never seem to be thrown out, causing him to always use more than one before finally opening his hotel suite's door. Detached from his family for years as the brother that exists but cannot be counted on for anything, he contemplates whether he should, or really wants to, attend his sister's weddingthe little girl of the family and someone he should have been involved with after the passing of their father. A series of style cramping incidents for him begins with a phone call from his other sister and the request to take a cardboard cutout of the happy couple, (Melanie Lynskey and Danny McBride, in a role that might actually show some nuance for a guy that usually flies by the cuff), and photograph it in front of famous places he travels to for work "like that French gnome movie,"I love the Amélie reference. Then comes the threat of being taken out of the air, his home for decades, in order to impersonally let go more people more efficiently; the challenge of taking Natalie on his next schedule of jobs to prove to her why the new system won't work; and the addition of a love interest in Vera Farmiga's Alex, a woman who describes herself to him with "just think of me as you with a vagina"one of many great lines.
There is a lot of subtlety and intricate weaving of plot lines throughout the story, details and sequences that need to be seen fresh to get the full benefit of the film. What you might initially think is a witty comedy about a jerk of a guy who not only thinks he's better than everyone else, but actually is, that either finds the error of his ways or gets dropped down a peg or two, eventually becomes a tale chock full of heart and emotion. The real success story of the film is a revelatory performance from Clooney who really knocks this on out of the park. He always showed the charisma and chops to play confident and successful, but here is allowed to also branch out and express the pent-up frustration that comes with isolated loneliness, the passion one can have for a job that seems horrible, yet, when treated carefully, is a job to take seriously, and the compassion for humanity on the whole, softening enough to realize that there are people around him that need help besides his laid off strangers, help that only he can provide. The evolution he undertakes is really pretty amazing and I credit Kirn, Reitman, and Clooney for pulling it off with grace and laughter.
Every single actor is unforgettableeven the bit parts like Zach Galifianakis and especially J.K. Simmons as two corporate employees who's jobs have been eliminated. Jason Bateman is hilarious as Clooney's smug boss, fully embodying the take no crap nonchalance he made famous in "Arrested Development"; Farmiga is gorgeous and competent to be able to go toe-to-toe with Clooney in the detachment and power-hungry attitude of flying in style for half a year or more; and, if George's reinvention of character is revelatory, then Kendrick's naïve Natalie is masterful. This girl was top in her class, able to get a job in her field wherever her heart desired, yet settled for this firm specializing in firing people so as to not dirty the workers' real superior's hands. Young and confused about life in the big world of adulthoodset on a plan for marriage and children to occur as though set times on a clockher eyes are opened to the intimacy and fragility with which a person's mental state can be affected by mere words. When you put them all together, Up in the Air resonates on so many levels; deserving of any praise and accolades to be bestowed upon it. Hilariously funny every second of the way, it is still unafraid to dig into the dark moments of life and treat them with respect and relevancy, going places you wouldn't think it would have the guts to go. You really can't say too much about the film, a top ten of the year entry for sure. Reitman proving to be a force to reckon with and Clooney that he just keeps getting better with age.
So 2009, and the decade known as...(what do we call this decade?), are ending later this month. And there is no better film to wrap up a (frankly) terrible decade (in terms of news events, unemployment, the economy, the media stronghold, the trashing and dumbing down of American culture, technology, narcissism, vanity obsession, a divided nation, violence and hostility) than Up in the Air. The film, the best I've seen all year and one of the best of the decade, captures many of the factors that made this decade the worst one, at least in my 42 years. The 70s may have been bad economically but hey, at least we had Bruce Springsteen and real music on the radio, women still seemed to like men and not only if the men were millionaires, thoughtful movies in the theater, and only five or so TV channels to pick from. Up in the Air features George Clooney as a man with no "roots," (that is, no wife, no kids, and his apartment in Omaha is about as furnished as a room at Embassy Suites), who fires people for a living because the companies who hire him are too cowardly to do it themselves. It is a juicy role for Clooney, who has made a career out of playing easy-talking charmers. The film sounds depressing and in many ways it is, but it is also witty, quietly hilarious at times, and full of pathos when it becomes a morality piece near the middle (and like the best morality pieces, it doesn't shove its message down your throat). It reminded me in many ways of American Beauty, the masterpiece that capped off the '90s when it hit theaters ten years ago. Clooney's character slowly is stripped of the things he only cared about--including a one-night-stand that becomes a "Same Time Next Year"-like meeting in Hampton Inns and Hiltons in Miami, Detroit, Wichita and other random cities, with another constant traveler (we never know what exactly she does, and that's not supposed to matter) played by Vera Farmiga, who may win an Oscar nomination for her mysterious, slightly passive and jaded, 30something character. The final important character is an eager young Cornell graduate (played by Anna Kendrick, from Twilight) who thinks that a career in firing people is a wise choice now, and in some respects she's not that far off. Her character represents many of the Twitter-obsessed twentysomethings driven for money money money, who live for texting, and has naive and even immature ideals of what makes a relationship work. But she too goes through a transformation, as Up in the Air reaches a "feel good while feeling bad" quality of Frank Capra's darker films, like Meet John Doe. One of the most amazing things about this film is its use of real people in the "firing scenes;" people who have really lost their jobs several weeks or months before being filmed. Director Jason Reitman combines scenes of these people being fired by Clooney and Kendrick, and their instant responses are wholly authentic. There are a few actors playing the "firees" as well, but they blend in with the real folks. I really can't think of a better film to cap off this decade. This one will stay with you. Highly recommended.
Director Jason Reitman, that has brought us great Indie classics such
as Thank You for Smoking and Juno has crafted his most personal and
most effective portrait to date, Up in the Air. The film stars George
Clooney, also giving his most intimate and beautiful performance of his
career, as Ryan, a traveling "Firing-Man," who plans on racking up as
much frequent flyer miles as he can. Completely void of human
connection and emotion, even from his two sisters, one of which is
getting married, Ryan seems completely content with his choice of
living. All seems well until he meets his female version in the
beautiful and charismatic Alex, played with sexual force and intensity
by Vera Farmiga. At the same time, a change at his job makes him
acquire a student, Natalie, played with sensitivity and vigor by Anna
Kendrick, to learn the ropes of the business before potentially making
a devastating change to Ryan's way of life.
The film, based on the book of the same title, is a moving and witty piece of cinema. The line deliveries given are some of the best liners of the year. The adaptation by Reitman and Sheldon Turner is of beautiful and social importance in today's day and age. There was no better time than now, to bring a film like this to the table. Dana E. Glauberman's crisp and precise editing sets the pace as we travel with Ryan in this beautiful account. Reitman's direction shows he's a force to be reckoned with and should be in full blown force for Oscar consideration along with the adaptation shared with Turner.
George Clooney, who's having one hell of a year along with his other comedic turn in The Men Who Stare at Goats, gains sympathy and emotion from the viewer, which up until now, Clooney had always struggled for. The role is right up Clooney's alley and with humorous strength, conveys the pain and loneliness of an otherwise charming man successfully.
Vera Farmiga as Alex, is a beautiful as she is dark, and as sexy as she is ugly. Farmiga has finally landed the right role that, in her years of wrong place at the wrong time, should land her a first-time Oscar nomination. Never showing her hand, Farmiga keeps and earns your trust, attention, and admiration. It's one of the most divisive and structurally brilliant supporting turns of the year.
Seemingly not playing with a full deck is Natalie, played most beautifully by Anna Kendrick, who portrays brains don't equal smart choices. Kendrick earns your care and concern for the character, as she follows Ryan around and constantly badgers him about happiness and love, she naïvely and courageously shows the tenderest parts of youth in today's world. Kendrick will likely be sitting along side Farmiga at Oscar's ceremony.
Jason Bateman, playing Craig Gregory, the boss in charge, is amusing in a brief but memorable role. Amy Morton and Melanie Lynsky, who play Ryan's sisters, are valuable and sufficient enough to book end a wonderful tale. Danny McBride, an outstanding comic talent to watch, is as good as ever. And finally, in otherwise cameos, Sam Elliott and the great Zack Galifianakis are uproarious in their respective roles.
This could very well be the crowd and critical pleaser of the year. It has what the 2004 film Sideways lacked, the emotional edge. Long after the film, you take these characters home with you and remind yourself of its authenticity in delivery, poise, and premise. Up in the Air is one of the best pictures of the year. ****/****
Anyone who has ever been fired must see "Up In The Air." Jason Reitman
has done again. The director of "Thank You For Smoking" and "Juno" puts
real life out there in an incredible way, where we all laugh and then
walk out of the theatre thinking about what is really important. A film
with a message that's entertaining: what a concept.
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man that flies all over the country firing people for companies that don't have the spine to do it themselves. He is so proficient at it, when he meets his "expert traveler" equivalent, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga); he is emotionally drawn to another person, beyond a passing interest, for the first time.
Bingham's travels are a quest to be a traveling legend. When his company takes the advice of young newbie, Natalie Keener (Kendrick), he is grounded, endangering his quest to achieve frequent flier miles that number in the, uh, stratosphere. When his boss (Jason Bateman) assigns him to "show her the ropes," so she can revolutionize the company's firing technology, the resulting road trip is not only riotously funny, it is a self-exploring journey into the three people's strengths and weaknesses. The life decisions they make are the emotionally important message of the film.
The rest of the story must go untold, so you can savor every morsel from your own perspective. For that is what this film does best. Almost all of us have been canned. Sitting across the table, being told we'll be glad it happened, one day. Our participation in the film is subtle, as we sit across the table from Bingham as he cans us.
The film's cast is like the story: they suck you in. Clooney is Clooney, like Cary Grant was Cary Grant. You think he's not acting, that's just who he is in real life. Maybe it is. Vera Farmiga's performance is seductively natural. You've met people like her. You admire her. Then you find out you don't know her at all. She is the mystery you wish you were. Anna Kendrick as Natalie is a perfect, perky, know-it-all that becomes all too human. Kendrick makes her character's transformation special parts of the film, when she could have easily have been regulated to a supporting character. This has become Reitman's trademark as a director. He empowers actors to make the movie their own.
Up In The Air is a movie that is over before you want it to be. You want to get to know the characters better, to follow them around a little longer and make sure everything goes well for them. Another credit to Reitman for his extraordinary skill at taking the common things in life and make them extraordinary. Which makes us all feel better about the common-ness of our own lives.
Written by: Vincent for Overcranked.net If you liked this come read more reviews http://www.overcranked.net/movies.php
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Up In the Air" is perhaps the most hyped film of the year, and also
the most undeserving of said hype.
The story is a simple and predictable one. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a consultant sent throughout the country to fire unsuspecting employees for bosses too cowardly to do the job themselves. He lives for the routine of these trips and the frequent flier miles, spending only a few days at home in a studio apartment too small for a house cat. Enter 23 year-old upstart Natalie (Anna Kendrick) who revolutionizes the process with video conferencing, removing the last human element from the job. Bingham is naturally horrified by the changes and is forced to take Natalie under his wing, teaching her the ways of the force, getting her to loosen up while simultaneously showing her a thing or two about humanity and the wisdom of experience. As his relationship with fellow chronic traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga) heats up, Natalie imparts her own advice to Bingham, helping him to grow a heart.
I could have let the predictable story go if director Jason Reitman had given the audience something else, anything else. But the script is entirely lackluster, full of cheap one liners that even Clooney's usual charm just barely supports. Clooney does his usual Cary Grant routine, which is neither here nor there, not horrible, but not groundbreaking, all sadness in the eyes and slight smile. It is refreshing to see Vera Farmiga as a love interest, a woman over 30 who neither whores herself out or plays the strong ice queen, but exudes intelligence and confidence without becoming a caricature of the high-powered woman. Here, she's entirely natural and beautiful in an atypical way. I'm also strangely attached to Kendrick, who doesn't do anything that impressive, but seems to be trying hard enough. It's in the few bonding moments between Clooney's Bingham and Kendrick's Natalie that the film takes a minute of serious drama and finds a bit of sincerity, but these moments are few and far between.
If the film had concentrated on the superficiality and desolation of corporate consulting, we might have gotten somewhere. Or, if Bingham and Natalie had found themselves unemployed, the film might have presented just the type of irony and schadenfreude we would need to relate. Instead, the film makes an attempt to reach out to the jobless masses of America in the most trite and insulting way possible, the only slight reflection of sincerity found in the sadness of Clooney and Kendrick's eyes as they listen to the newly unemployed lament their inevitable fates.
Many critics have praised this film for its timeliness and Reitman's understanding of the current American situation. It was irritating to sit there and watch Bingham tell a man that being fired was his chance to become a French cuisine chef, after the man had just talked about his expensive mortgage and his daughter's need of health care. After a little smile and pep talk from Bingham, the man is suddenly on board, ready to follow his dreams. It's always helpful to be positive and stay focused, but there comes a point when this sort of clichéd platitude becomes insensitive, and here, Reitman shows himself the king of producing them. The film didn't need this sort of faux validation to draw out the drama, there was already enough there to work with.
For a typical film, Up In the Air is perfectly satisfactory and an enjoyable enough distraction for anyone that gets pleasure watching Clooney do what he does best. But ignore the hype, ignore the awards, and lower your expectations. There's nothings shocking or particularly moving here, unless of course you're one of the unemployed. In that case, it's better to just go see something like "Avatar" and escape for a few hours.
We are drawn in by interesting, unique storyline and smart
satirizations. About a man whose unique job is to fly around the
country to inform people that they are fired. He meets a young
ambitious woman that joins his company and who wants to change the
system. Her ideas clash with his personal lifestyle choices.
What the movie really is about is lifestyle choices, and relationship choices, choosing independence and freedom versus commitment and well established interpersonal relationships. By taking a definitive stance the movie provides interesting commentary on those that for whatever reason (not necessarily for work) don't stay put.
A Monotone mood is established, that gave a bland aspect as though nothing substantial was happening. Part of the story took a dull meandering at times, however there were unconventional plot twists that made something that was seemingly Hollywood predictable not that way at all. And it was still interesting and entertaining to watch the contemporary witticisms.
The two main characters, although not the most true to life characters ever created, were brilliant satires of people we all know. We are all too familiar with the fiercely independent, non-committal, cockily at ease bachelor and we have also come across the, sharp, type A, ivy league know it all yet with an obvious naivety especially shown with her declaration of the specific laundry list of traits that her partner must have.
There were also some smart satirical illustrations of contemporary times in business, relationships, how people interact and the recession. For example the use of the smart phones in the new techno/relationship world is not simply put in as a momentum mechanism but is used as a symbol to satirize contemporary society.
It is not so much Clooney's acting that is a marvel as the casting, which was perfect. By being so spot on by choosing someone on the cusp of getting a little older yet with plenty of playful, youthful vigor we sense the conflict and the melancholy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On the surface, an easy going film with an almost message,
semi-memorable characters and a bit of believability. George Clooney's
'Ryan' goes around the country firing people for corporations that
don't have the respect or humanity to do it themselves.
There is a love interest here and there is the moderately keen, Miss Keener ready to revolutionize the world of firing tagging along with charming Ryan. But where the film could have said something about human relationships, about humanity, about the real Zeitgeist of our incredibly cut throat Western world with its reliance on child labour designer clothing, Made in China products and our pathetic reliance on technology to improve our lives, it jumps into a banal story about the human heart and learning to let go of control. Once again, another film about a man afraid of the Commitment Monster...
Blah... trite and too basic to be tender, the director had a potential gold mine here but mined the blasé and the overused. A film with such an intriguing idea skips around the Truth and the Heart, giving us a leading man burnt by a woman and living on in a world far too much like his broken heart. Just blah.
And again... what a great idea for a film (based on the book) but everything you'd want to see in it, they leave out...(how lives are destroyed by the inhuman terminations...) go figure... No one is changed in this movie, no one is really touched and Miss Keener gets a great job at the end (leading me to believe she might get fired later by someone like Ryan had this been a good movie).
This film is about a man who fires people for a living. His world
becomes upside down when his job is radically changed by a newly
recruited young fresh graduate.
"Up in the Air" is a well made film. The plot focuses on character development and emotional changes of the characters. It is not easy to make characters interesting and memorable, but "Up in the Air" does just that. Both the characters of George Clooney and Anna Kendrick have strongly divergent attitudes and personalities, but they have great chemistry and change each other slowly but surely. How they radically shake each others core belief is engagingly told. I enjoyed watching "Up in the Air" a lot, as it tells an engaging story of self discovery.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dealing just with thematics and ignoring the fact that, throughout, I
found watching the film to be trying (enough in itself, of course, to
warrant a poor rating), Up in the Air doesn't work: it's disingenuous
Clooney's character is positioned at the outset as sharp and appealing, his ideas apt with respect to the world in which we see him engaged. Yet, contradicting itself tonally and explicitly in terms of its two dueling ideologies (alienation versus connection), pulling the proverbial rug from under its protagonist's feet, Clooney falsely endorses his sister's marriage and "transforms" into a man who longs for what he previously had with such conviction shunned. Ultimately, it comes down, not to content, but to the way Reitman deals with the material. Many great films laud human connection as invaluable, but Up in the Air doesn't make me buy its central character's arc or its confused conclusion.
Ryan Bingham (Clooney) speaks with his sister's fiancé, Jim, played by Danny McBride, and effectively convinces him to go through with the marriage with Julie despite Jim's legitimate (and convincing) doubts. The scene is not, as Reitman intended, indicative of some kind of maturation in Bingham it's a self-contradiction. The scene following this betrays the film's bias and cues us emotionally; the sweet contempo-folk track and the loving kiss and make-up between husband-and-wife-to-be work to posit the marriage as authentic in the eyes of the film-text: it's a necessary affirmation of true love. Reitman plays this scene as warm and sweet; truly, its an acquiescence to the cultural status-quo that clashes with what the film has presented so far about marriage and relationships, as well as with Bingham's character as we've come to understand him. Marriage is "adult" and real, says the film, as opposed to Clooney's philosophy, which it dismisses ad hominem as "childish" rather than dealing with in any substantive way. Bingham ought to "grow up," says his young co-worker Natalie (Anna Kendrick). Case closed.
So, we're presented with conflicting images: that of Bingham's (and the film's) endorsement of his sister's marriage; and that of relationships in general as transient and contrary to one's own interests (Alex, Bingham's sister, Natalie: all in varyingly failed or unhappy relationships). But nothing is done to either reconcile the tension between these or make any sense of them. They simply exist in the film alongside each other, despite their mutual exclusivity. Additionally, we can't understand why Bingham shifts camps. His sudden move from self-aware, post-modern isolationist to pining romantic is jarring and forced rather than organic. This might have been fixed were there some genuine chemistry between Clooney and Farmiga. A fifty year old man doesn't easily change in a major way how he lives his life, especially when he's as entrenched in his lifestyle/work as Bingham is. Clooney's interest in Alex (Farmiga) isn't enough to be convincing. How can he be willing to change everything on the basic of a few hot nights and some cute texts? (Armond White touches on another crucial flaw with the film in discussing this: "...this movie looks wretched. The lack of emotional rapport between the actors starts with each one's poor lighting and bad angles.") The film simply makes an arbitrary value judgment without sufficient textual support: marriage and relationships are, innately, more meaningful and important than one's career. Apparently, for Reitman, this is a self-evident fact, needing no convincing elucidation.
The film presents Bingham as having, in the most facile sense of the word, "matured" by the film's end. He's rejected his "empty backpack" philosophy, but, sadly, can't have the woman he wants. The monologues by terminated employees at the end has one saying something to the effect of: "In the end, it's my family my wife and kids that are what matter to me most." Rather than being complicated, Up in the Air is simply confused. The first two acts of the film are spent showing (1) how problematic relationships and marriage are and (2) how lucid and believable Bingham's philosophy actually is. In way the film presents his sister's marriage (and with lines like the above), Up in the Air is shown to endorse an institution that it simultaneously shows to be non-functional. Clooney's final words indicate that he's alone for the long haul, forever "doomed" to the air. But, if anonymous-terminated-employee as well as Bingham's own sister and Danny McBride can have a meaningful, "good" marriage/relationship, why can't Bingham? It doesn't add up. Interestingly, the film begins with him being far more satisfied that he is at the conclusion. Yet, perplexingly, the new ideology (that leaves him less happy) is the one the film endorses, and the lifestyle of alienation (the one that, if not leaving him happy, at least led to his being in some way satisfied perhaps the best anyone can be said to do) is dismissed offhand as childish.
A better film might have thoughtfully dealt with the tension between a desire for connection and the impossibility of genuine, lasting connection in post-modern, commodified society (a society in which Clooney has very effectively ingratiated himself and of which he has become, through his work, a somewhat fearful, but very real, emblem). Instead, Up in the Air is simply symptomatic of said desire. Because Up in the Air is so bafflingly blind to the relationship-problematics it outlines within its very plot content, it thus fails even to be ideologically reassuring, because, by endorsing what it at the same time show to be false and disingenuously forcing its protagonist to do so as well the viewer emerges from the theater confused rather than assuaged. There are films that convincingly and entertainingly deal with the importance of family and romantic love (from just this year, both Away We Go and Funny People), but Up in the Air is not one of them.
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