Sunday, January 3, 2010

Review: Up in the Air

In only his third film, Jason Reitman has created a meaningful story about life, love, and commitment in a way no one truly expected.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate junkie whose life consists of flying around the country over 250 days a year to fire people. For most that description would sound depressing, but Ryan hates being tied down, finding comfort in the little things that most people hate about traveling. He even has a goal in mind of 10 million miles, not for trips or for anything specific but for simply getting there.

Along the way he meets two significant women that drastically change his outlook on life. Alex (Vera Farmiga) is the female counterpart to Ryan who finds joy in the technology of sexting, the flying miles, and the intamacy, or lack of, involved in their casual fling. Natalie (Anna Kendrick) is a quick-witted overeager new colleage who is trying to revolutionize the firing process, a move that could ground Ryan forever.

So these three get caught up in a world and get emotionally involved in a world that asks for surface level commitments and casual relationships. These women, and the help of his long-lost family, help him try to discover something more to his life. Some clever twists help bring out something that was lost in Ryan.

The ending is ambiguous, but maybe that is the point. We have no idea if Ryan has changed or whether his encounter with these women was simply a bump in the road of his former life, and to be honest, if there was nothing to talk about, then why watch it in the first place.

The writing and directing is top notch, witty, and in Jason Reitman's case, minimal. He allows for his actors to play their characters, something Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones) and Rob Marshall (Nine) could have taken heed of this year.

Clooney shows surprising emotional depth, and clever wit. Vera Farmiga is sexy and sassy, and Anna Kendrick is fiesty. Throw in some great cameos from Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons, and Jason Bateman, and you have a top notch acting cast that shows the strengths of each actor.

Overall however, it is the wit and message that sticks with you. Up in the Air is a great blend of heartbreak, wit, and charm and creates a warm and thought-provoking movie that shows a genre of adult dramedy, a genre that is often missing from out arsenal of holiday movies. A real gem.

Grade: A-

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