One of the films that have been sitting in the little Netflix sleeve for weeks now has been Up in the Air. Another film from Jason Reitman, but this one is about a middle-aged businessman, Ryan Bingham, who travels around the country firing people. Other companies hires his company to step in and do the dirty work when they need to handle mass layoffs. Bingham lives by the philosophy of keeping a small suitcase – not many personal relationships or possessions. Bingham struggles as his company hires a young graduate who wants to revolutionize his business by firing people via a Skype-like application and thus grounding him from his travel. About the same time he meets a woman, Alex, who describers herself as, “Just like you [Ryan] but with a vagina.” And his younger sister is also in the midst of getting married. All of these things begin to upend Bingham’s world view.
Reitman has a great sense for opening sequences. One of the most standout things about this film was just that. While I can describe them as a series of images that give you a bird’s eye view of the major cities in the United States, it doesn’t really do it any justice. It’s beautiful and quirky and sets the tone for the film.
I also have to mention the acting as downright phenomenal. George Clooney is believable as the sympathetic fire-er, minimalist, independent-yet-lonely main character. Vera Farmiga acts as Bingham’s female mirror and counterpart. Anna Kendrick, of Twilight fame, is Natalie Keener. There are also some fun cameos, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
As the audience, we get to watch Bingham’s life go from simple to complicated at the pace of (almost) warp speed. And then we get to watch his change in thought process as his interactions and attachments to those around him grow.
Up in the Air is very smart, very witty, and very good. And while industry awards aren’t always an indicator of how entertaining or enjoyable a movie will be, I feel obligated to mention that it was nominated for six Oscars. (More on the awards over at IMDB.) After seeing the film, I’m surprised they didn’t win at least one.
See it: if you’re a fan of Reitman and/or Clooney, you travel a lot for work, you like smart films
Skip it: if you’re bored by dialogue or looking for a straight comedy
[Thanks to sebastianoehme for making the image available for use.]