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Whether You Think “Up In The Air” Is Depressing Depends On How You Look At It

Hopefully, an American citizen can watch “Up In The Air” in thirty years and say, “Was it really that bad then?” You can call this movie many, many things, but “timeless” is not one of them. This is a movie that perfectly describes much of the world we live in: detached, remote, isolated…alone. Oh, but cheer up movie goer! There’s more than enough humor and feel good moments to keep “Up In The Air” out of the wintery gray doldrums.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchetman that travels from company to company, firing people. One would immediately assume he does this in a very impersonal, brutal way, but Clooney is so damn charming and kind while he does it that I wish he was the person that laid me off back in May 2009.

Bingham’s main focus is not his job. He spends almost every day of the year on the road, flying across the country. He is more focused on his idea that humans were meant to be detached from each other and accumulating frequent flyer miles. Two things happen that shake his world up in a big way. Ryan meets Alex (Vera Famiga), who is a female version of himself. Also, his boss (smugness incarnate, Jason Bateman) has decided to embrace the idea presented by young Natalie (Anna Kendrick), which effectively grounds Ryan’s pursuit of airline mileage.

It’s hard to believe, but this movie is very funny. The first ten minutes get some of the biggest laughs in the movie, courtesy of the cameo from Zach Galifianakis as a employee who gets terminated by Clooney. There are several cameo-like appearances, most notably by J.K. Simmons as another fired worker. Simmons once again nails a performance in a little less than five minutes that left me more moved than anything else in the movie.

Of course, this movie hinges on the acting triangle of Clooney, Famiga, and Kendrick. I normally don’t care much for Vera Famiga, but she’s very funny, sexy, and interesting in a girlfriend role. The real surprise is how fantastic Anna Kendrick is. I had not seen her in anything until this, but I most definitely expect that to change.

In the end, it’s a George Clooney movie. He makes it okay to like Ryan Bingham, who isn’t a bad guy, just a emotionally stunted and confused one. Actually, he may not be so much confused as sold on his own bulls*** outlook on life. It’s a performance that made me forget I was watching George Clooney, which for as large a movie star as him is quite the accomplishment.

There is no doubt that “Up In The Air” resonates much more strongly due to the fact that 2009 was not a great year for the working American. Many of us (yours truly) had the unfortunate experience of being fired from their job. This movie is definitely out to prove that your job does not make your life. At the end of the day, Ryan, Alex, and Natalie all have to decide if their job is worth their happiness, as we all do. Do we realize it after it’s too late? Do we lie to ourselves and keep pushing miserably on? Or, do we put a stop to the misery andseek out what truly will make us happy, no matter the paycheck?

On second thought, that does make “Up In The Air” sound timeless…perhaps it is and should be recognized as such.

  1. mcarteratthemovies
    January 5, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    From the Twilight movies, you’d never know Anna Kendrick was this talented. Her best scene is early on, when Clooney takes her on the road and she has to see people get fired. The range of emotions on her face is amazing.

    Clooney is phenomenal as well — he just keeps getting better with age, much like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

  2. chickybabe
    January 6, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    I too was moved by JK Simomns’ role. He gets the beautiful, poignant kick-off point to start the wheels turning.

    Bingham was rigt about one thing – whether or not you realize it, getting laid off is only the beginning. And it does allow you to look at your life and decide what is really important… unfortunately, when you AND your partner are both jobless, it makes it a lot harder to follow your dream, and not just get a job and figure out the rest later…

  3. July 30, 2011 at 2:21 AM

    I think that this is a classic in the making.

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