Up in the Air is a somewhat moving examination of a modern, single mans life. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a man who spends his days firing people. Business is good. The recession has caused Bingham’s figures to hit the roof. He’s living the dream.
Bingham doesn’t have a home, unless you count American Airlines, nor does he have a family, well biologically he does but they consider him the little black sheep that dropped off the edge of the world. But he loves his job and he loves his everlasting life in transitory even more. However, when a freshly packaged graduate, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), with hot from the oven new ideas boards his life, proposing that the company introduce something that she calls ‘glocalsim’, that is Skype-chat-style-firing, it descends Bingham’s plane to the runway signposted ‘home’. A place where dour reality envelopes him in the form of four stale white walls. Yes, sacking people via web chat may be cold and impersonal but hey it sure does cut down on the staffs expense accounts. The boss (Jason Bateman) loves it.
Kendrick holds her own as the whip-smart employee who has all the knowledge Harvard can offer but not a drop of life experience to get her through the day, and thus can only muster streams of seemingly intellectual sounding verbal diarrhea. Moreover, George Clooney is superb in this role also, though it must be said that this character isn’t exactly a stretch for Clooney who is himself the most comfortable bachelor since Jack Nicholas, no one can accuse him of not having done the leg work.
The material may be sentimental in nature but director Jason Reitman ensures the audience can still every now and then bathe in the glow of the cold autumn sun. He mostly is able to steer away from sloppy drippiness by sectioning the material off with barbed wire. Despite what the trailer may lead you to believe, this is by no means a comedy, there is little to laugh about in regards to the global economic crisis that has robbed so many of their livelihoods.
Up in the Air is ultimately a good salty dramedy, that is in keeping with Reitman’s style, whereby he whips sorrow and laughter in perfect union, seen previously in Thank You for Smoking and Juno. Unfortunately, unlike Reitman’s earlier films, Up in the Air suffers from several somewhat unrealistic tonal shifts; the film spends so much time focusing on how fulfilling Bingham finds his no-strings attached, baggage-less lifestyle, that it almost seems insincere that he would be vying to give it all up for a woman who he has crossed flight paths with just a few times. Especially since these encounters were merely bite size squeezes of convenient, sexually motivated companionship. With that said, Up in the Air is rather unmissable.
Does it deserve to be in the Big 10? It could have been, but it feels as though it misses out and doesn’t earn the spot it has. Not sure about Clooney’s Best Actor nod, either.