December 23, 2009, - 3:38 pm
I’m finally allowed to review “Up in the Air,” because it debuts in Detroit theaters, today. (The rest of my movie reviews will be posted tomorrow and after Midnight on Friday Morning.) And it’s among my top 10 or 15 movies of the year (will post that list, next week).
The Jason Reitman-directed movie is funny, clever, and entertaining. But it’s also depressing. That’s because it’s about people who fire other people for a living. And in this economy, especially during this holiday season, that’s hard to watch onscreen, since we see it every day in the current economically depressed situation throughout America. It’s definitely not a “cheerful holiday movie.”
Watching old men get fired and cry–knowing they will struggle to find another job as they, themselves, note–is hard. And it seems very real, as cold and harsh as the real-life terminations that happen across America every second of the work day. I found that unsettling for a movie (since movies are supposed to be an escape from hard realities of real life, not intense recreations of them). Still, the rest of the movie was entertaining and there are some great lines in it.
You can bear smug uber-liberal George Clooney in this movie because he essentially plays–and mocks . . . himself. Clooney is confirmed bachelor and master termination expert, Ryan Bingham. Companies hire him and his employer (his boss is Jason Bateman) to fire their employees, because they don’t have the guts to do it themselves. It’s cold, it’s harsh, and he feeds the now-terminated employees total BS lines he knows are fertilizer about how this is the “beginning” of their lives, will help them realize their dreams, etc. Soon, though, he finds himself with a young protege (Anna Kendrick) who is equally as cold and who has developed a firing technique in which employees are fired over a computer screen. It’s harsh.
Bingham spends most of his time on the road flying around to these termination sessions and, in his free time, lecturing at New Age empowerment psychobabble seminars from his silly book, “What’s in Your Backpack?” And since he has no permanent or special woman in his life, no close friends, and no tight relationships with immediate family members, he lives his life aiming to score elite status on various hotel and airline frequent customer cards. Eventually, he meets a woman (Vera Farmiga), who is the female version of him. She wants no commitments and also aims for ultimate status at hotels and on airlines. They begin an affair and he finds himself suddenly pining for something more than an empty life of sleeping and flying around, where he is all alone and everyone else has moved on with living life.
And that’s when he realizes that life as George Clooney is actually a meaningless, empty life with no real purpose on the planet. A shallow, barren shell with no there there and lots of nothingness. Even his job, at which he excels, is mean and turns people’s lives upside down.
So, if you don’t like the real life George Clooney, you’ll like this onscreen commentary that his life really isn’t all that.
George Clooney is at an airport speaking to his protege Kendrick at the security checkpoints. He talks about how to make things faster and save time while traveling. He surveys the families, the old people, and other people in line whom he says make things slow. Then, he spots some Japanese businessmen going through one line.
Clooney: Asians–they pack light, travel efficiently, and they’ve got a thing for slip-on shoes.
Kendrick: That’s racist.
Clooney: I’m like my mother. I stereotype. It’s faster.
The movie is a little top-heavy on off-beat music and soundtrack, trying a little too hard to be hip. But other than that, it was okay.
Like I said, I didn’t enjoy the firing scenes, in particular a scene in which an old man is fired by computer in Detroit and starts crying. It made me wanna cry. But the rest of the storyline is entertaining and enjoyable. And, frankly, it’s a great statement on the emptiness of those who devote it all to their careers and eschew family and morality and that special “something more” we should all seek in life.
Tags: Anna Kendrick, George Clooney, Jason Bateman, Jason Reitman, Movie Reviews, Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga