Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Up In The Air

Title: Up In The Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Released: 2009
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis

Plot: Ryan Bingham (Clooney) makes his living traveling around the United States firing people when their employers are unwilling to do it themselves. It’s  life he is content living until his company threaten to take it away with the introduction of videoconferencing, an idea he is quick to oppose leading to him taking new hire and the instigator of this new process Natalie (Kendrick) out with him in the field.


Review: Director Reitman first burst onto the scene with “Thank You For Smoking” a film which followed a lobbyist for Tobacco actively trying to encourage more people to smoke and here again he gives another character with an usual job that they actually enjoy doing. So is the case with Ryan, who enjoys his job so much that he sees it as a burden to have to go home on those few days every year when he hasn’t got an assignment.

A creature of habit, Ryan has lived this life for so long he now has his routine down to almost a science, even crafting his personal philosophies into motivational speeches he gives at conferences under the heading of “What’s In Your Backpack?”, all while working towards his target of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines, a goal which he is set to be only the seventh person to achieve. Of course he’s none too pleased to have this work cocoon being threatened by what Natalie is trying to put in place, while his stubbornness to change sees him embarking on a mission to prove her wrong as the pair embarks on their highly unique road trip.

While Ryan might seem like a solitary character, especially with his sparsely decorated apartment, which he seems to have set out to make seem like any of the many hotel rooms he stays in, judging by the stolen hotel towels and fridge full of mini bar spirit bottles. However he has a causal relationship with Alex (Farmiga) a seeming kindred spirit and fellow frequent flyers, with the two hooking up whenever their paths cross. But while it might not be a traditional lifestyle it is one that Ryan is happy living. Clooney really embraces this character, especially in how he handles his day to day work which is not so much with the cold and calculating nature you’d expect him to approach this task with, but rather he relies on a tried and tested quotes, while seemingly knowing how to handle any reaction the people he’s firing.

As with “Thank you For Smoking” the journey the film takes us on is once again one were we have a character of fixed motivation, who slowly comes to realise that his world view might not be as true as they thought. So is the case for Ryan as his relationship with Alex grows closer than its original casual roots, while his sisters impending wedding for which he has to take pictures of the happy couple’s cut out next to tourist spots only further sees him questioning if he is missing something.

A film truly carried by Clooney’s Cary Grant esc charms, especially with his way with dialogue which is only emphasised by the narration he provides and which frequently provides the best insight into his character, especially when he is so often on the defensive to those around him. At the same time he gets equally strong support from both Farmiga and Kendrick who while both playing feisty ladies each bring their own approach to playing this sort of character, especially with Farmiga who effortless manages to switch between aggressiveness and femininity, making her the perfect match for Ryan especially when their lifestyles mirror each other, as highlighted during their initial meeting which soon descends into a game of perk card one upmanship. Their relationship frequently providing a source of fascination as they work around their situation, rerouting appointments to create connecting cities and sending flirty texts when apart and while it might have started casual they soon find things unintentionally getting closer.

Equally fascinating are the segments involving people being fired which not only features a standout appearance by J.K. Simmons, while  Reitman also works in interviews with real people who responded to an advert he placed looking for people to appear in a documentary about job loss in an attempt to avoid actors responding. Each of these interviews also saw the participant being fired on camera, while being asked to respond either how they responded originally or how they wished they had responded to the situation. Of these interviews twenty two would be used in the film, which certainly adds a level of realism to the situation, with some of the responses being truly heart breaking, making you wonder how Ryan actually manages to do this job.

A film which manages to walk the tightrope between humour and real emotion perfectly, even if the journey by the end does have the feeling that we have spent going in a circle. Still the film is funny and smart enough to make the journey an enjoyable one, while finally providing a much needed companion piece to "Thank You For Smoking".

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