Don’t be fooled by the trailers for Up in the Air. It may seem like a formulaic romantic comedy. It’s not. Not by a long shot. Jason Reitman, following up his Juno breakthrough, has put together a finely developed and many times amusing story about choices — both personal and professional — and their consequences — planned and unplanned — to oneself and to others.
And it is these choices, for better of worse (depending on whose perspective you are looking from), that smooth talker Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is all about cashing in on. Coining himself as the “Termination Facilitator”, he zigzags across the country and delivers that dreaded zinger to employees — of whatever company that’s hired him — that they’re now out of a job. To you and me it would seem like a thankless job, but Bingham relishes his position and the freedom it affords him — i.e., no commitments.
In this role, Clooney shows, once again, why he is one of the more sought after actors on the planet. Reitman claimed he wrote the role specifically with Clooney in mind and without a doubt it shows. George sweats confidence and puts forth that swagger without being entirely egotistical that is needed for a man hired to fire people. He’s also able to pull off the opposite side of the spectrum equally well — Bingham is also one lonely son of a bitch even though he thinks he isn’t. A streak of fear runs through him too when he finds he himself may be shit canned.
That’s right what goes around comes around. Recent graduate and looking to make a name for herself, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) convinces Bingham’s boss Craig (Jason Bateman) that there is money to be saved by firing people via video conferencing. It stands to be a tidy sum of money when you stop to think the amount of layoffs occurring this day and age and that Ryan has nearly accumulated 10,000,000 air miles. Self preservation kicks in and he gets Natalie to tag along so she can see for herself that ironically it isn’t only about the bottom line — his “personal touch” is worth the price.
The other lady in Ryan’s life is quite nearly a mirror image of himself. Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) is a constant traveler too, finding herself living out of a suitcase most days of the year. And while both agree relationships complicate their lives; they alter their flight schedules so they can happen into one another for fleeting sex and camaraderie. She is wholly more complex than she lets on and the chemistry between the two is rather fresh and striking.
All combined, Up in the Air is a masterstroke. Reitman mixes the elements of drama and satire superbly; gets a great performance from his bankable star; and gets even better performances by his two lesser known actresses. And seeing as the film was released so late in the year, it is surely looking for Oscar consideration. Being such a fine movie, I can’t imagine it won’t earn a nod or two . . .