Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman
These days, whenever I see a George Clooney film, I go "Oh no, this may be dull, he's just gonna talk a lot". But I have heard so many good things about Up In the Air, and I needed to see it for myself.
Up In The Air focuses on one Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), who has a very unique job. He gets hired to fire employees on behalf of employers who don't have the guts to do it themselves. His job takes him all over the country, so much that he practically lives out of his suitcase.
But you see, unlike most people who would abhor being on the road for a majority of the year, Ryan embraces it. His lifestyle of spending most of his time in airplanes, airports and hotels negates any chance of him committing to anything he feels would weigh him down. Friends. Family. Home expenses. Office stress. That kind of stuff. In fact, he's so good at this, he even holds seminars every now and then about living out of a backpack. And there's also his goal of achieving a frequent flyer mile target, a target that only a handful of people have reached.
Then one day, his boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) introduces him to a new concept of firing people: via teleconferencing. This brand new idea comes courtesy of a young girl named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). She points out that her way of letting employees go would save their company from spending on air tickets and other travel claims.
Ryan isn't happy about this one bit, for he is not going to just let one idea throw a wrench into his way of living, and subsequently proves to Craig that Natalie doesn't know the first thing about firing people. So Craig gets Ryan to show the young upstart the ropes, by taking her across the country and teach her how to look into an unlucky worker's eyes and give them the bad news. Face to face.
Thus begins the lesson. Ryan shows Natalie how to save time and money on the road, how to convey the bad news, what to say and what not to say etc. But this always works both ways, as Natalie shows him, at first subtly, on what it means to have a life, and how to connect with others. The young lass may still be naive about people, but Ryan himself learns a thing or two about the importance of acquaintances.
There is also another person that Ryan connects with: Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a woman who seems to live the same way Ryan does; carefree and constantly on the move. The two strike up a commitment free relationship, until the story gets to the third act, when things start to change.
Jason Reitman, who brought us Juno, directs this wonderful tale about people, life and how to connect with someone, whether they're close to you or a stranger you just met. What's interesting is that Reitman had planned this film years ago, but was only able to complete it now, and released it at a time when recession had hit America, so the film's concept on people losing their jobs was very relative to viewers. But still, the story is more on the human connection, and even in the worst of times, there may still be hope, and even for the most cynical guy like Ryan Bingham, things can change.
Which brings me to Clooney, who puts in a splendid performance as Ryan. Clooney is truly believable as a man who is so sure of himself, the way he lives and the way things should be, to the point where he has no regrets, and yet when the inevitable happens, when the right kind of people finally get through to him, he breaks routine and shows his vulnerability. Farmiga compliments him well as the love interest, Alex. On the surface she seems like the perfect match for Ryan, until her true colours come forth at the end. I particularly liked Anna Kendrick, who is perfect as Natalie. Natalie may seem inexperienced and more vulnerable than Ryan, but she isn't intimidated by him, and she too can teach him a thing or two about people. Kendrick deserved her Oscar nomination here.
All I can say is, it's good to finally find a George Clooney film that is funny, endearing and with a storyline that I can grasp. Recommended. (4/5)