Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UP IN THE AIR (2009)

Written by Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner

Directed by Jason Reitman

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. December 15, 2009, 8:25PM

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man whose profession is one of those that are a necessary evil, like a parking meter attendant or a lawyer. Mr. Bingham is a career transition counselor or in a less professional definition, he travels across the country firing people for companies because the supervisors don't have the balls to do it themselves.

In between, Ryan does motivational speaking engagements about relationship free living. He enjoys all of the special perks of his job; being acknowledged when he arrives at the airport, the special treatment at the airport VIP lounges and car rental agencies, the comfort of the luxurious hotel rooms, and the collection of frequent-flyer miles in which he is very close to reaching the ultimate goal of ten million but the real perk according to Ryan is that he has no emotional baggage of a personal life or committed relationships.

He thinks his life is perfect but one day his boss, Craig Gregory, (Jason Bateman) the owner of the company, summons him back to the office in Omaha for an important meeting.

He is introduced to Natalie Keener, (Anna Kendrick) an uptight, career focused, young woman who has joined the company with new and modern ideas of how to do their job. Her plan is to save time by taking every one off the road and to terminate employees by using video camera feeds from their office. This will also save the company a lot of money, so Craig is all for trying this program out. Ryan is not at all happy with this potential disruption to his lifestyle and points out Natalie's inexperience on the job and the many flaws in her plan.

To try and solve this, Craig suggests that Natalie travels with Ryan so she can get some first hand experience of what is really involved in the job of termination. Ryan is against this too but he is convinced that will be a good idea.

It is no surprise that Ryan and Natalie have some difficulty working together but they soon learn some valuable life lessons from each other. Ryan teaches her that firing someone in any capacity is a very difficult and heart-breaking task and you can't remove the human element from it and she actually makes him question why he is more concerned about reaching his airline mileage goal than about his lack of any real human connection in his life.

On his travels, Ryan has met an attractive, frequent-flyer named Alex (Vera Farmiga) who he connects with almost instantly because they are so similar. They coordinate their itineraries so that they can meet up for brief rendezvous in whatever city they are both in. This too seems like an idea arrangement but something unexpected happens to Ryan. . . he finds himself having real feelings for Alex.

Ryan is so convinced that Alex might be someone important that he invites her to accompany him to his sister's wedding. They have a wonderful time together despite all of the drama that occurs at the wedding but at the end of the trip, Alex just waves goodbye and heads off back to her home. In the middle of a motivational speech, Ryan soon realizes he no longer believes in what he is saying and he walks out and heads for Chicago. He is hoping to have an opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with Alex. Will Ryan sweep Alex off her feet and live happily ever after or will he be disappointed and miss his final destination?

"Up In The Air" is smart, clever, touching and actually laugh out loud funny. There are really not a lot of films that I have seen lately that have been able to reach that lofty achievement. Considering what is going on right now in this country, it is hard to believe that they could take a story involving job termination and not make it a distraction for people to be able to enjoy the film is pretty amazing. It is certainly one of my favorites of this year.

First rate performances from Mr. Clooney, Ms Farmiga and Ms Kendrick who each have wonderful moments to show off their comedic and dramatic skills and they really are award worthy. This is the third film from Mr. Reitman, following "Thank You For Smoking" and "Juno", two films that I also really enjoyed. The most notable thing about him is that he is very good about bringing out the very best in all of his performers. He is only 32 years old and he has proven that he is gifted film maker and he is someone who really deserves to have a long career in the future.