“This land is your land, this land is my land,” croons Sharon Jones during the opening credits but she might as well be saying, “this movie is your movie, this movie is my movie.” Before seeing “Up In The Air” I was slightly concerned that I, a young 20 year old would find little to relate to. After all, the film stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a middle age single Casanova who (when he isn’t too busy giving motivational speeches) works for a company whose sole purpose is to respectfully fire the employees of other companies. Not too many people live his lifestyle but there are characters and sentiments in this film that will without a doubt relate to just about everyone.
As the film starts Ryan Bingham is reveling in unwedded bliss, in being alone and in his constant work-related travel, indeed according Bingham, “moving is living.” His small airport-sized world changes though when Natalie Keener (played with exuberant pep by Anna Kendrick), joins Ryan’s company. She’s a woman fresh out of college who proposes that the company save considerable money by having its employees fire people through an Internet program like “Skype” instead of by actually flying out and firing employees face to face. Ryan unapologetically hates this idea but is forced to show Natalie what his job entails by flying her around the country with him and having her observe him work.
Meanwhile, Ryan meets Alex Goran, a sexy middle age woman, played by Vera Farmiga who like Ryan, spends most of her time flying from city to city on business trips. Their chemistry is undeniable and watching the two of them interact is more fun than any fight scene from “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” What is remarkable about this film is that in our age of super short attention spans, this movie indulges in long scenes, filled with dialogue, humor and subtlety. When Natalie discusses relationships and careers with Ryan and Alex, you are sucked in completely to their lives. Clooney, Farmiga and Kendrick work so effortlessly together that they seem like they’ve been working together for years in a theater troupe. Their work in this movie should garner each of them Academy Award nominations.
Writer and director Jason Reitman, whose previous work includes “Juno” and “Thank You For Smoking,” has crafted a film that like his last two efforts includes undeniable humor and style yet also speaks to our broader world with seriousness and weight. This is a movie about our failed economy, our rising unemployment, our isolation and our addiction to technology. It is also about a college grad trying to juggle relationships and work, a woman just looking for a fun time and a man who realizes that he in fact does not want to be alone. For all of these reasons I related to this film and had so much fun doing it. “Up In The Air,” is not unlike a 21st century version of “The Apartment,” it is light yet heavy, funny yet serious, somewhat slow but hugely entertaining. These days movies like this don’t get made that often.
Bottom Line: Go see this movie in the theater, it will win lots of awards and you don’t want to be out of the loop.
Watch this video of Reitman, Farmiga and Kendrick discuss the film with the awesome Peter Travers.