Friday, February 26, 2010

Up In The Air

This review is part of the ongoing feature The LAMB Devours the Oscars. Read all of the articles on every Oscar category and all ten Best Picture nominations.

Rarely can a film be both timely and timeless, contemporary and classic, heart warming and
heart wrenching, heavy, humorous, that combines comedy and drama, scope and introspection, romantic, yet real.

Up In The Air is such a film.

George Clooney turns in what may be the best performance of his career as Ryan Bingham, career transition counselor. His job title is pure euphemism as Bingham is a hired gun brought in from the outside by companies forced to do mass layoffs. Bingham's matter of fact attitude about his work belies his entire outlook on life. He forsakes his sparsely furnished apartment in the Midwest to spend most of his life on the road, on the job and, of course, up in the air. He moonlights as a motivational speaker, sharing his philosophies with like minded business types, truly believing in every word of his speeches, imploring them to leave unnecessary attachments by the wayside. He streamlines his personal life as effectively as his daily routine, cutting back on baggage, personal or otherwise, and finds comfort in airport lounges, business suites and the exclusivity of frequent flier miles. But, his comfort zone is threatened when a young ingenue, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), is hired on by his company to take the business into the future. Her plan to cut costs and fire people face to face over a computer monitor will ground Bingham permanently and he finds himself taking her on the road with him as they attempt to learn about each other's methods and prove themselves more effective. They learn from each other, share their personal ambitions, like Ryan's goal of ten million frequent flier miles and form a bond that is the emotional core of the movie. Along the way, Bingham finds a like spirit in the form of Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) who shares his lifestyle, life experiences and through their similarities, Bingham begins to look more at himself. He solicits her counsel when Natalie is heartbroken, he takes Alex to his sister's wedding and when he gets the call that he doesn't need to travel anymore, he wants her to be part of his new life.

Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn, writer/director Jason Reitman pushed through the flashes of brilliance he displayed in Thank You For Smoking and Juno, by crafting a story that is much more subdued and serious, but without sacrificing the warmth and humor that is his family hallmark. He skillfully moves the action around the main force of Clooney while constantly keeping the story heading forward to it's ambiguous conclusion. The performances from the three leads are impressive enough to garner them all Oscar nominations, as feat accomplished by such films as The Philadelphia Story, The Graduate and Raging Bull. The supporting cast is peppered with familiar face Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, Zach Galifinakis and Danny McBride as well as using real people recently laid off from their jobs at the time of filming. That human touch, that sense of connection the audience feels to the characters, the world they live in and how closely it resembles our own, guided by Reitman and embodied by Clooney is what helps make Up In The Air the best picture of the year.


Casey said...

What do you think about best actor this year? Bridges or Clooney? I really loved this film, and i think your lede really wraps up its thematic ranges quite well. I think the main theme that seemed to run through the center though, was uncertainty. Relationship uncertainty, job security uncertainty, living uncertainty, etc.

Great post.

Big Mike Mendez said...

Clooney definitely. But, I think Bridges has so much going for him that it's his year. But, Clooney gave a much better performance.