UP IN THE AIR
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a specialist in firing people who loves his life on the road, is forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes its travel budget, thanks to smart little graduate, Natalie (Anna Kendrick). He is threatened with being grounded at base, right on the cusp of a goal he's worked toward for years: reaching 10 million frequent flyer miles ... and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams, Alex (Vera Farmiga). A resolute bachelor and opportunist, he is not prepared for the forces that the two women unleash.
Review by Louise Keller:
To know me is to fly with me, says George Clooney's Ryan Bingham, the corporate man with everything who learns that having no strings attached is not always a passport to contentment. Commitment, happiness and travel are the themes of Jason Reitman's bitingly good film which looks at the life of a high flyer for whom express lanes, corporate clubs and frequent flyer miles are the ultimate thrill. Clooney is perfectly cast as the charming, confident and cynical Ryan, whose backpack analogy describes how possessions and people weigh us down in the journey of life. It's funny, sardonic, insightful and ironic and Clooney casts his spell effortlessly.
Clooney's Ryan is the man delighted to be travelling 322 days each year, because that means he only has to tolerate 43 days at home in his clinical Omaha apartment. Happiness means being up in the air, at arm's length from everyone. His job? 'To make limbo tolerable,' as he spins positives from negatives and cushions the blow for strangers he fires from different companies around the country. Vera Farmiga's Alex ('think of me as yourself with a vagina') is his perfect match; they both get turned on by elite status and compare their frequent flyer cards when they meet for the first time on a stop-over in Dallas. But there's turbulence in the cabin when Anna Kendrick's brilliant, young Natalie comes on the scene; her vision to save the company mega-bucks by cutting back on travel expenses and terminating staff by video link does not take reality into account. The fun begins when Ryan is forced to take Natalie on the road and life starts to ooze in different directions.
Reitman is an astute writer and director and he judges this slick and layered adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel beautifully. There's humour, irony and poignancy in the side-plot involving Ryan's niece Julie (Melanie Lynskey) and her upcoming marriage to Jim (Danny McBride); when Ryan is asked to talk some sense into the groom with cold feet, he is definitely not the right man for the job. This is a charming film that touches on many truths. What more could we ask than to be in the company of the seductive Mr Clooney for this adventure that flies.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The likeable rogue whose soul is redeemable is an eternally useful cinematic character, and George Clooney is the ideal actor to play him. Up In the Air gives him a vehicle to deliver a comedic performance tinged with melancholy, as he finds himself in a unique situation ... but more on that in a minute. Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking is one of my favourite grey comedies, a film that maintains the perfectly pitched tone for its entire running time. Likewise here, Reitman balances comedy with plenty of deadly serious material, mostly flowing from the basic premise of a man whose job is to fire people. Reitman doesn't make this process cruelly comedic; he lets us observe: we see a procession of workers confronted by the bad news and their heartfelt reactions. This isn't the funny stuff; this is what the funny stuff balances.
Around this bleak scenario, Reitman engineers an entertaining clash of characters that is pointedly well observed. We get to touch on gender politics, the nature of relationships, loneliness, frequent flying and the etiquette of professional travel as well as the emptiness with which the Ryan Binghams of the world grapple every day. When Ryan's sister (Melanie Lynskey) is getting married and the groom, Jim (Danny McBride), gets cold feet, Ryan is the one on the spot who has the ironic task of trying to talk him back into a committed relationship.
The unique situation in which Ryan finds himself is a revelation about himself that takes him - and us - by surprise. Clooney's deceptively effective characterisation is superb, but he is not alone among the cast to deliver terrific performances. Both Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga pack a punch, as does Jason Bateman as Ryan's boss. J. K. Simmons and Sam Elliott (both notable in Thank You For Smoking) appear in cameos, and every one of the fired workers brings tangible truth to their small bit important appearances.
The film sidesteps a predictable ending, leaving us up in the air with Ryan ... who is somewhat wiser.
Email this article
THE REALITY AND THE FICTION
UP IN THE AIR (G)
CAST: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Linskey, Sam Elliott, J. K. Simmons
PRODUCER: Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman, Jeffrey Clifford, Daniel Dubiecki
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
SCRIPT: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner (novel by Walter Kirn)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Steelberg
EDITOR: Dana E. Glauberman
MUSIC: Rolfe Kent
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Steve Saklad
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 14, 2009