Up In The Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Players: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman
Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
DVD Release date: 24 May 2010.
Robert Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate down sizer, living for life on the road (albeit in the air), collecting air miles and avoiding personal commitments. His lifestyle is thrown into doubt by the arrival of a potential young rival Natalie (Anna Kendrick) and the chance meeting with fellow corporate flyer and possible soul mate Alex (Vera Farmiga).
When faced with the possibility of being taken off the road and grounded to a single office by his boss (Jason Bateman), Bingham is forced to show the ropes of his trade to Natalie (an idealistic young graduate with plans on restructuring the role).
As they hit the road Bingham’s motive is to prove to Natalie that the role cannot be changed and in doing so ensuring that his ‘flyer’ lifestyle maintains intact.
Here we have the beginnings of a road movie, as the pair move between airports and companies.
The rapport between Clooney and Kendrick is good with sharp and often witty dialogue leading to the eventual friendship/bond created out of events.
However, Director Jason Reitman really hits his mark in the scenes where we witness the pair in their trade as Bingham’s silky skills are used to inform employees of their pending redundancy.
Here the film crosses over from subtle comedy to drama. The reaction of individuals, suddenly finding that they have not only lost their income but also their status in life is often touching and genuinely upsetting.
Check out J.K. Simmons scene stealing cameo as he angrily demands of rookie Alex an answer as to how he can deliver the news of his impending job loss to his family.
Given the current economic circumstances, it is in these moments that the film stands apart from contemporaries, providing an unnerving twist which also serves to set up the film’s final act.
In Alex (Farmiga) we have the love interest, an assured corporate flyer that also seems to be Bingham’s mirror image. There is a sharp romantic chemistry between Clooney and Farmiga, leading you to believe that there is a meeting of minds (potentially hearts).
Faced with the arrival of this woman into his life, the possibility of being grounded and the realisation that he has become an isolated figure ( a touching further subplot has Bingham revisit his estranged small town sister’s wedding), will Bingham finally commit to his ties and make a play for Alex’s heart?
Up in the Air is a film which manages to balance themes of soul searching, social/moral responsibility and elements of old fashion comedy. In maintaining the balance of these themes, the film owes much to the work of Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” (1960), the romantic travelogue of Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” (2002) and Reitman’s previous film “Juno” (2008).
Ultimately, it is Bingham’s realisation of a wasted life and the impact of his role with other people which leads to a cryptic but uplifting final monologue which I felt was one of Clooney’s best screen moments and Reitman’s finest film to date. Shamelessly neglected at Oscar/Bafta time, I fully recommend this film upon the forthcoming DVD release.