Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Directed by: Jason Reitman (“Juno”)
Written by: Jason Reitman (“Thank You for Smoking”) and Sheldon Turner (“The Longest Yard”)
People do crazy things when they are fired from their job. While most may sit in total disbelief, there is the occasional childish tantrum thrown, tearful plea, and even the somber threat to end it all by jumping off the nearest bridge. Some reactions are hilarious (at least from a cinematic sense), some are shocking, and some are simply too heartbreaking to even begin to describe.
In “Up in the Air,” director/writer Jason Reitman and co-writer Sheldon Turner run the gamut on the emotions an employee might experience if he or she was told they were no longer needed. It’s a frightening situation no one would ever want to encounter although today’s increasing unemployment rate continuing to rise makes people wonder just how safe their job really is.
At its most basic, “Up in the Air” is a timely story about the unpredictable marketplace. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a film that speaks volumes about isolation and loneliness and the fear of failure and uninitiated change.
The life-altering affair begins and ends with Academy Award winner George Clooney (“Syriana”). He plays Ryan Bingham, a contract businessman hired by companies around the U.S. to pull the trigger and fire their employees when they can’t find the gall to do it themselves. Firing people face-to-face with the utmost professionalism and respect is all Ryan has ever known. He doesn’t necessarily like the outcome of what his position entails, but his unconstrained lifestyle (living out of his suitcase, jumping from airport to airport, and never having to commit to anyone for anything) is what he is used to. His love for his independence is evident when he starts having scheduled flings with Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), another frequent flyer who seems to share the same no-strings-attached outlook on life.
So, when Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), an ambitious efficiency expert straight out of college wants to revolutionize the way the company drops the ax (it’s only logical that firing someone over a webcam will get it done faster and cheaper), Ryan sees and end to his easy-going routine. While this bothers him a great deal, Ryan is also concerned the advanced firing technique via internet is even more heartless than doing it in person. Since the changeover at his company will take some time, he gets the chance to show Natalie there is an actual method to letting someone go that just can’t be duplicated on a computer screen.
Full of charming and touching anecdotes, Reitman makes “Up in the Air” soar. As a “road warrior” who is suddenly grounded, Clooney is Oscar bound in this multi-layered role that speaks from the heart. Kendrick, too, is very memorable as a matter-of-fact young businesswoman who thinks she has it all figured out despite her lack of experience.
It all works in “Up in the Air” from the dark comedy elements to the catchy sountrack. Not only is it one of the best films of the year, it’s also one of those distinctive romantic comedies (with a satirical and tragic twist) that is a true rarity in a usually cliched genre.