Directed by: Jason Reitman
Premise: A man who lives out of his suitcase (George Clooney) is grounded when his employer adopts Internet technology as opposed to flying him all over the country. Resisting the change, he takes a trainee (Anna Kendrick) on the road while carrying on a casual romantic relationship with a traveling business woman (Vera Farmiga).
What Works: Up in the Air is a film that captures an aspect of contemporary life—the way the digital communication technology shapes our work and our relationships—and plays out the implications and consequences of it through drama. The story is very nicely unified as it connects the romance to the job without forcing the matter and the lessons that Clooney and Kendrick’s characters come around to realizing happen very organically. Although the casting of the lead actors works well, care seems to have been taken in filing minor parts and the scenes of employees being fired have some great, if brief, performances by these actors. The scenes are written and played very well, as they range between the funny and the tragic and never repeat exactly the exact same scenario twice. The editing of these scenes is very effective, both within the scenes and also as they crosscut from one interview to the next. Up in the Air has a brave finale and it goes off unexpected directions, leaving Clooney’s character in a place of revelation but without requiring that he necessarily end up happy.
What Doesn’t: The only flaw on this film is in the way it takes for granted the necessity of romantic relationships. Although Clooney’s character makes a case against it, the film conflates human connection with romance, which are really two separate ideas, and a better case could be made against needing to subscribe to marriage or life long monogamy.
Bottom Line: Up in the Air is a terrific film that manages to deliver a romantic story without insisting upon hitting every tired beat and even upends some romantic clichés.
Episode: #272 (January 10, 2010)