Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Up in the Air

Directed by Jason Reitman.
2009. Rated R, 109 minutes.
George Clooney
Vera Farmiga
Anna Kendrick
Jason Bateman
Amy Morton
J.K. Simmons
Melanie Lynskey
Sam Elliot

Tamala Jones

Ryan Bingham's (Clooney) job is to travel around the country firing people. However, he faces an uncertain future as his company considers taking him off the road.

George Clooney has entered the rarefied air of Pacino, DeNiro, Nicholson and Washington. I mean, his persona and presence is so overwhelming that he seems to be playing himself in every role but it still works perfectly. He simply dominates the screen, commands you to look at him and compels you to root for him, even when we know we shouldn't. This quality combines with an outstanding script to make the movie work wonders. It vacilates between funny and sad to create empathy. Clooney isn't alone in excellence. His two female co-stars, Farmiga and Kendrick are both great, as is Jason Bateman as Clooney's boss. Still, it's the series of firings that ground the movie, with two that particularly stand out. One is the first victim of the company's new technology. It's a jarring look at the coldness that advancing technology can often bring with it. The other is a brief but powerful cameo by Tamala Jones (Daddy Day Camp, The Brothers, The Wood) that literally haunts the movie.

As much as it plays on our economic fears, it still manages to largely avoid real issues of recession. It's present but our characters are not only above it all, but seem almost totally unaffected (aside from their occasional sympathy). Yes, what the company is considering is a cost-cutting measure but it's more the natural evolution of a business that's thriving. Therefore, it can come across as insensitive, at times. Finally, near the end, our hero begins to make a grand gesture for one of his sisters. However, we never see how that plays out and are robbed of a potentially great moment.

2009 gave us two movies essentially about hopeless womanizers and the path to loneliness that the playboy lifestyle really is, this one and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. If that premise appeals to you, see this one and skip that one. That is, if you're looking for something that handles the subject with both humor and maturity. If you desire to see something zany with more eye candy...and stupidity, then go for the other one.

MY SCORE: 9/10

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