Rating 3 stars.

Reviews

Up in the Air-Roger Ebert.
Up in the Air-Fernando F. Croce.
Up in the Air -David and Margaret.
For the basic premise of the movie allow me to be lazy and simply quote IMDB:

With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him. (IMDB)

Firstly, lets talk about Jason Reitman, this movie is much like, ideally, his other movies, technical, not in the visual sense, but rather, clever:  fast-paced dialogue, fast-moving characters, a niche market, if you will. Much like an Alexander Payne movie, it brings us into a worldview, think Juno or Young Adult, these movies are mentalities, that we might understand, perhaps only conceptually, or we might understand through experience. Reitman is bringing us into a world of status symbols, money, perks, people who have bought into what the Post Modernists might call the ‘structural linguistics’, or ‘models’ that we have created for ourselves. For example, the scene when Ryan (Clooney) meets Alex (Farminga) and amongst flirtations they swap business cards, awards cards, credit cards, this is used as a preamble to sex, these 2 characters are so turned on by status.

It is interesting to see this movie juxtaposed to something like Juno which was filmed very warmly, it was earthy, indie, about a rural town, with small-minded people – we see how that was a very deliberate thing. This movie is cold, glassy, blue, and about fast-moving, city goers who work from a single serving lifestyle, a la Tyler Durden.

The  sub-text that subtly becomes text took me out of  this movie, at least in the sense of me being able to relate to it. Ryan’s family critiquing his life for his self-imposed isolation, bothered me, this is  a person who knows what he wants, who he is, most importantly, enjoys what he does, is happy, but as it does not conform with others perception of reality he is berated (more on this in a moment). At the point in the movie I’m referring to (Ryan’s sister asking him to take photos of a cardboard cut out of his other sister with her fiance at certain landmarks), it does seem like Ryan’s isolation is a negative thing, insofar as he does not wish to participate in (what he perceives to be) the mundane, the ordinary life of other members of his family – this is a selfish person.

Further into the movie the text becomes obvious, and its at this point I became disappointed with the direction. I’m tired of being moralised at in film, studio execs so worried about downer endings, that movies become so formulaic that they’re predictable and uninteresting, so it is with Up In The Air. As Ryan gets closer to Alex, feelings become involved, Ryan’s travelling partner Natalie (Anna Kendrick, a fine up and coming actress who really goes toe-to-toe with Clooney) begins to question his lifestyle choices. But as we have come to understand, Ryan’s choices are rational, a well considered view of the world, he wants no marriage, no children and he likes it that way. Here is where we come back to the point that irked me, Reitman is telling us these choices are not good enough, that marriage and kids, a mortgage and a dog are what matter in life, even if you’re happy without those things. That ideal conflicts with the reality I have chosen for my life, hence I was taken out of the story, and became cynical at its choices.

Going further, the philosophy of the movie is summed up at 1hr 20 mins in when Ryan is talking to his sister, Kara (Amy Morton) who is trying to convince him to persuade his other sister, Julie’s (Melanie Lynskey) fiance, Jim (the hilarious Danny McBride) who has cold feet, that marriage is worthwhile. Kara states that he should be able to do it as he spends his life talking to people for a living, and he retorts that he talks people out of commitment, to which she replies what kind of fucked up job is that. Reitman’s message appears confused when we consider the piece as a whole:  get married and have kids, or you’ll be successful and sleep with attractive women.

Perhaps as I think about it, perhaps that is what’s going on at a deeper level, perhaps Reitman is not moralising at us at all, but rather, showing us the positives and hardships of going your own way, of having your own philosophy?

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