Up In The Air Review: Flying High
This is a comedy drama with a dark streak which is not only laugh-out-loud funny, but genuine, relevant, satisfying and features extremely strong performances from its three leads.
George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a corporate angel of death, a consultant whose job is to travel the States informing people that they’ve lost their jobs. Ryan loves his job and is simultaneously pursuing his goal of reaching 10 million air miles and with it, an entrance into an elite club. But when a young new recruit (Anna Kendrick) comes up with a new way to fire people remotely, he’s threatened with being grounded forever.
He manages to talk his boss (Jason Bateman) into one last round trip to show the newbie the ropes. As an added incentive, he’s also just met Alex (the striking Vera Farmiga), seemingly a female version of himself – independent and with no strings attached.
Directed by Jason Reitman, who had great success with off-the-wall teen comedy Juno last year and the corporate satire Thank You For Smoking in 2005, Up In The Air shows a much more human side to corporate America. The short snappy introduction sequences give way to a film which is at times touching, serious, relevant and utterly hilarious.
Clooney excels as Bingham, his sharp suit and smooth good looks make him the perfect face for sincerely delivering bad news on a mass scale but his cutting wit and charm make him instantly likable. He has incredible chemistry with Vera Farmiga as Alex and they play off each other perfectly. There’s always a danger in a Clooney film that he could eclipse his co-star. Thankfully this never happens and she holds her own as a sexy, confident and independent character.
Special mention should go to Anna Kendrick as the new kid on the block Natalie in a challenging and difficult role, which requires her character to be balanced between cocky precociousness and an earnest belief that she is doing the right thing. It would be a challenging part for an experienced actor, let alone a relative newcomer, but she handles it masterfully.
Up In The Air is more than just a catty sideswipe at corporate America and the (timely) effects of redundancy, it’s also a film about what a job means to someone. Can what you do define you as a person or is there more to it than that? It goes without saying that several characters have to stop to re-evaluate their lives but it does this without triteness or contrivance.
It’s a sharply written and incisive film which avoids the pitfalls of other comedy dramas and refuses to impose judgements on its characters. The result is a fully rounded, three-dimensional movie which is constantly a joy to watch, which never flags and never lapses into cliché.
If you see one George Clooney movie this year, make it this one. Heck, if you see one comedy drama this year, make it this one.