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Overall Rating
3.74

Awesome36.96%
Worth A Look: 28.26%
Average: 13.04%
Pretty Bad: 15.22%
Total Crap: 6.52%

4 reviews, 22 user ratings



Up in the Air
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by Mel Valentin

"The loneliness of the long-distance (air) traveler."
4 stars

Part corporate satire, part romantic comedy, and part character study, "Up in the Air," Jason Reitman’s third film as a director (after the Academy Award-winning "Juno" and his debut, "Thank You for Smoking," an adaptation of Christopher Buckley’s 1994 novel), is a loosely based (operative word “loosely) adaptation of Walter Kirn’s 2001 satirical novel. With its focus on a corporate downsizing expert and Reitman’s inclusion of real-life interviews with recently unemployed workers (mixed in with actors), it’s hard to imagine a film hitting the zeitgeist at a better (or worse, depending on your perspective) time. Featuring a nuanced, sympathetic performance by George Clooney, as well as solid supporting turns from a talented cast, Oscar nominations are practically a given.

In his late-forties, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), has carved out the perfect life for himself. He spends close to 300 days every year traveling from corporation to corporation as a “career transition counselor.” He fires employees and helps to minimize legal liabilities for the corporations that hire him. He’s also working his way toward 10 million frequent flier miles. He lives everywhere and nowhere. He lives in what he calls “AirWorld.” Bingham lives shallowly so he doesn’t have to experience life deeply. He meets his mirror image in Alex (Vera Farmiga), an on-the-go-traveler open to a no-questions-asked relationship. Alex engages Bingham on the same, superficial level that makes him, if not happy, then content.

Called back to corporate HQ in Omaha, Nebraska, Bingham’s boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), informs Bingham of big changes. Instead of firing corporate employees personally, Gregory’s all-but-agreed to implement a new cheaper, alternative: videoconferencing, an idea concocted by Gregory’s newest employee, Natalie (Anna Kendrick). Bingham argues for and obtains a temporary reprieve and takes Natalie with him on the latest round of corporate firings. Natalie challenges Bingham to justify what he does and why he does it. She also challenges Bingham to go deeper with Alex. Bingham’s family, whom he’s kept at arm’s length, also place demands on his time. His younger sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), is about to get married to Jim (Danny McBride), a real estate developer.

Using Kim's novel more as a starting point than an untouchable, unchangeable sacred text, Reitman ads a key secondary character, Natalie, and a major plot point, the videoconferencing plan, not present in the novel. Reitman and Turner also give the Alex a different backstory and spin. They spin Bingham’s relationship with Alex into romantic comedy territory, at least initially. Reitman and Turner jettison or change several plot points (e.g., MythTech, Bingham’s motivation for reaching the frequent flier milestone, his relationship with his family). They also add the opening and closing face-to-camera interviews that give Up in the Air contemporary relevance (and resonance), all of which makes Up in the Air less than faithful to Kirn’s novel.

Thematically, both Kirn’s novel and the adaptation center on a critique of shallow, disconnected living. If Bingham lives by any credo, it’s “A shallow life is worth living.” Bingham spends his off hours giving self-help seminars, “What’s in Your Backpack?” He extols living simply, with few possessions and even fewer social and familial obligations. Of course, Reitman has a thesis to prove (that shallow living isn’t, in fact, worth living) and he proves it by pushing Bingham to confront the consequences of his career, his self-imposed isolation, his family, and, ultimately his relationship with Alex.

As deftly as Reitman handles story and character development, balancing drama and comedy in equal measure, he distrusts moviegoers to pick up on major and minor themes and instead has several characters verbalize them (often more than once). And while he brings Bingham full circle by the end of the film, wiser if not necessarily happier, he ends "Up in the Air" with the unemployed interviewees describing the emotional support they draw from their families. It’s an obvious, unnecessary point, but Reitman does better visually. Reitman proves himself adept at composition, scene construction, and scene transitions. Whatever its faults, "Up in the Air" confirms Reitman’s position as a humanist filmmaker and a visual stylist.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19512&reviewer=402
originally posted: 12/04/09 22:21:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2009 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/27/13 David Hollingsworth A very relevant, and timely surprise. Witty & smart. 5 stars
9/23/12 roscoe Horrible film that contains and sxhibits nothing. Clooney is a terrible actor. 1 stars
3/28/11 RLan The chemistry between Cooney and Farmiga makes the movies worth viewing. 4 stars
1/13/11 mr.mike Worth a view on cable. 4 stars
10/12/10 Simon Broader socioeconomic commentary w/personal existential relatability - not an easy feat 5 stars
6/13/10 the dork knight Thought-provoking movie. Switches between snappy ironic humor and grim realism 5 stars
3/30/10 gc Great ending, great commentary on the present state of the american economy 4 stars
3/22/10 Monday Morning Don't say this often at all but I loved this movie. Outstanding story & performances. 5 stars
3/15/10 Jeff Wilder Not as deep as it thinks it is. But still good for what it is. Better than most mainstream. 4 stars
3/08/10 Samantha Pruitt great actine with great dialogue, kind of sad though 5 stars
2/28/10 Butt No new ground, but very well done. An atypical mainstream flick in many ways. 4 stars
2/27/10 Kelp Interesting, a lovely lass or two, ruminations on connection 4 stars
1/24/10 Dan Great movie- well acted and written. Understated. Spoke to the business traveller. 5 stars
1/21/10 anthony Geat script, exellent performances, and successfully delivered despite the hype. 5 stars
1/21/10 Helen Bradley Very slow paced, boring, disappointing 1 stars
1/20/10 Stanley Thai Funny, dark, witty, and poignant, UP IN THE AIR is one of the best films of 2009. 5 stars
1/05/10 PAUL SHORTT WELL ACTED BUT DEPRESSING 2 stars
1/03/10 Benjamin Brian Ondorf couldn't be more mistaken. Best of the year 5 stars
1/02/10 Suzz see it and think about how you are living your life 5 stars
12/27/09 Vince Mazzara LAME ! Very FLAT ! Did I say LAME ? 1 stars
12/11/09 Ming One of the best year..funny and interesting story 4 stars
12/05/09 Flounder Has more laughs, smarts and heart than any film released this year. Utterly fantastic 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Dec-2009 (R)
  DVD: 09-Mar-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Dec-2009
  DVD: 09-Mar-2010




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