Up in the Air Review
By Rich Cline
Smart and funny, this breezy and bittersweet drama carries dark resonance for a society caught in the middle of both recession and downsizing. And Clooney couldn't be more perfectly cast in this role.
Ryan Bingham (Clooney) sacks people for a living. As he flies around America trying to soften the blow, he connects with a sexy businesswoman (Farmiga) and starts a side job leading motivational sessions about minimising the baggage in your life. He also builds up a whopping frequent flier account. So when his boss (Bateman) hires efficiency expert Natalie (Kendrick) to streamline the downsizing business, he feels the rug being pulled out from beneath him.
The film opens with inventive sequences showing peoples' reactions to losing their jobs and Ryan's economical system for navigating an airport. We immediately understand that he has no interest in settling down; indeed when we see his Omaha apartment, it's even less homey than the hotel rooms. Ryan lives an envious free life, unencumbered by people or things, so of course we know he's about to learn an important life lesson.
Fortunately, Reitman and Turner's script takes an intelligent approach, using sharp jabs of humour and some vivid characters. A story strand involving Ryan's sisters gives the film some direction, as the older Kara (Morton) coordinates the wedding of the younger Julie (Lynskey), unambiguously showing that Ryan has removed himself from their lives. And it's Natalie who provides the catalyst that forces Ryan to look at himself.
Reitman wisely focuses on characters rather than plot, refusing to indulge in sentimentality until it's earned. This gives Clooney one of his best roles: charming, clever and funny are the things he does best, and he develops snappy and unpredictable rapport with both Farmiga and Kendrick. These two actresses make their strong female characters unforgettable by continually upending the stereotypes.
So even if the film takes a couple of corny turns as it takes us on a lively tour of America's cities, the characters and themes are thoroughly involving.
And also wonderfully entertaining. We can't help but identify with people who are worrying about their futures--both those who are suddenly unemployed and the central characters who are just realising that their lives could use a change.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 23rd December 2009
Box Office Worldwide: $163.7M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 240 Rotten: 25
Cast & Crew
Starring: George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, Vera Farmiga as Alex, Anna Kendrick as Natalie, Jason Bateman as Craig Gregory, Melanie Lynskey as Julie Bingham, Sam Elliott as Maynard Finch, Amy Morton as Kara Bingham, J.K. Simmons as Bob, Danny McBride as Jim Miller, Zach Galifianakis as Steve, Steve Eastin as Samuels, Adrienne Lamping as Tammy, Tamala Jones as Karen Barnes, Chris Lowell as Kevin