Ryan Bingham is what is called a road warrior. He spends most of the year in the cabin of an airplane, travelling for his work. What is his job? He works for a company that is hired out by other businesses to fire their employees. And he is good at his job.
Bingham lives a life of solitary existence. He is estranged from his family, his only relationships with women are of the carnal kind, and his one main goal in life is to earn 10 million frequent flier miles at American Airlines. And this is all by choice. He even has a side job as motivational speaker advising other people to let go of their emotional attachments.
Two things cause changes to Bingham’s perfectly ordered life. First, he meets a female road warrior named Alex Goran with whom he develops a sexual relationship, one that he might wish to develop into something more. Second, his employer is about to adopt a new policy proposed by a recent hire fresh out of college by the name of Natalie Keener where, instead of flying to the location, firings would be done by Web conferencing. Essentially, Bingham would be grounded.
Up in the Air is a “dramedy” where the drama is heart wrenchingly poignant and the comedy is laugh-out-loud funny. It is one of the best films not only of this year but one of the best of all time.
The acting is superb from top to bottom. It might seem like typecasting to cast George Clooney as the charming yet aging bachelor, but that might be why he brings an easy confidence to the role. You want to hate him because of his job, but you can’t help feeling for him. That’s all Clooney’s doing.
Vera Farmiga provides a strong performance as Alex. Her character remains consistent throughout. Farmiga is sexy and seductive, coy and mysterious in the role, which helps the character ring true as the film progresses.
But out of the three main characters, Anna Kendrick is a revelation as Natalie. Her young, know-it-all character could very well have stereotypical and annoying in lesser hands. Kendrick finds the layers in the character and makes her more than just one-dimensional.
Great performance are also to be had by Amy Morton and Melanie Lynskey as Ryan’s sisters, Danny McBride as his soon to be brother-in-law, and Reitman regulars Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons as Ryan’s boss and firee respectively.
The topic is timely to discuss in today’s downsizing-happy economy, and you can compare Bingham’s plight to that of the laid-off worker and the uncertain battle plans of the corporations that fired them. But it also works as an emotional journey of change and discovery for a man who thought he had it all figured out.
It is not a perfect film. There are parts that are predictable. As the writing maxinm goes, if you show a gun in the first act, you’d better have used by the third. Well, there are a lot of “guns” in the film, and savvy film goers should know exactly when and where they would be fired. But this predictability is minor compared to all the elegantly crafted scenes that ring true and make this film something truly special. All due credit for this should go to Jason Reitman for his direction and his co-writing of the script with Sheldon Turner.
Up in the Air has been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. Often times, this kind of hype is overrated. That is not the case for this film. Expect to hear this film’s name on February 2nd.