Up in the Air – A Review

Up in the Air’ was a film that interested me for several reasons. All the ingredients appeared to be present to make this film a critical and commercial success. Though if the truth be told, it did seem more like a film that you probably should see rather than one you would want to see. For the film snob, ‘Up in the Air’ was adapted from the 2001 novel of the same name written by Walter Kirn. You have Jason Reitman at the helm who is the Oscar nominated director of the 2007 surprise hit ‘Juno’. And on Sunday, the film won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay which is a good indicator that it will be in the running for the same award at the Oscars. For everyone else, you get to, as my girlfriend so subtly put it, “swoon over the Cloon”. The advertising campaign has been suggesting that this is a quirky, yet quite serious film. And with it being released at this particular time of year it is clearly being geared up for the Oscars. But is it any good?

In short, yes. It came as a surprise to me, but I really enjoyed it. It was one of those moments where the stars and planets align and a perfect mood is created for you to enjoy a film that you otherwise thought you wouldn’t. I was pretty tired and wasn’t particularly interested in anything fast paced and action driven, so ‘Up in the Air’ was a perfect choice. The films premise is simple. George Clooney plays Ryan Shawcross. He works for a company whose sole purpose is to outsource its consultants to fire other companies’ staff. So cue sequences of people’s reactions to getting fired. We have the “f@ck you!” reaction. We have the “but what am I to do?” reaction. We have the “what do I tell my kids?” reaction. And of course, we have the “uncontrollable crying” reaction. Ryan spends 80 percent of his life either on the road or flying in the air. This is where he is happiest and hates spending the rest of his time in his bare apartment in Omaha. He doesn’t need anyone or anything to complete his life except for his vast collection of loyalty cards and his quest to reach 10,000,000 air miles. However, his idyllic world is threatened to be cut short as technology and rising fuel costs seek to make him obsolete. In a bid to keep his lifestyle, he is told to take “the new girl” whose new ideas are revolutionizing his industry, on the road to show her the ropes. Ahh, how films love the ropes! Of course, the two are polar opposites. Clooney doesn’t ever want to get married, have kids or settle down as ultimately, we all die alone. Natalie Keener, played by Twilight’s Natalie Kendrick, has had her life planned out for years and believes in true love and happiness and being with somebody forever. As they travel together and Clooney shows her those ropes, they gradually begin to wear each other down and see the value in each other’s opinions. As you would expect, Clooney starts to soften up and realise that maybe he doesn’t want to be alone after all after spending time with the likeminded Alex Goran. Cue a whirlwind finale where each person goes through a moment of self reflection and ultimately decides how they want to live their life, and thankfully there is not a typical Hollywood ending in sight.

As you might have expected by it’s Golden Globe victory, the script is very, very good. Not a great deal actually happens in the film but you are more than happy to watch the characters go about their ways discussing life, love and the current financial climate as the fundemental issues raised by the film are prevalent in todays society more than ever. But be warned, there is a lot of dialogue in this movie. If you want to see an action driven film, this isn’t the one for you. George Clooney talks and George Clooney listens. This is how the film works. And it would never have worked without solid performances from the actors. The casting of Clooney is an inspired choice as, like his character, he symbolizes the older gentleman who loves his life and is still yet to settle down. The biggest compliment I can pay him, is that during periods of the film you forget you are watching George Clooney and he simply is Ryan Shawcross. He is still his usual suave self and for all the bravado and self-assurance he gives his character, you also sense of an underlying sadness and unease in his performance. Kendrick is also very good as the uptight, motivated new girl. She is fully believable as the driven, yet somehow uncomfortable idealist who knows what she wants and is going to get it. When she eventually cracks and breaks down in tears, it’s not as if it is a complete transformation as she has laid the pre-cursors and given clues to the frailties inside her. Her transformation is all too real. Vera Farmiga excels as Clooney’s love interest. Her character Alex Goran is a person that you sometimes wish you could be. Confident, sexy, fearless, and when you think you know her you find out you really know nothing about her at all. The actors immerse themselves in the script brilliantly and create characters that you want to follow around and get to know better. Like Clooney, you don’t want the plane journeys to end.

As for the directing, there is nothing flashy, nothing too outlandish as it wouldn’t have fit the story. Instead, Jason Reitman lets the story tell itself and it works incredibly well. He definitely makes air travel and certain lifestyles seem sexy. After leaving the theatre all I wanted to do was jump on an American Airlines jet and travel first class to anywhere! But then the reality set in that on all of my long haul flights, not once have I ever turned left after boarding. The closest I have ever come to a first class experience on a plane, was asking for a second dinner on a flight to Korea!

Whilst I was watching the film I couldn’t find anything to fault. But once again, if I had to find a fault it would be this – Why can’t the people around him just let him be? Apart from his long distance booty call, all of the people that are closest to Shawcross are trying to pick apart his life and tell him how he should be living his life and constantly tell him what will make him happy. Who are they to know what will make him happy or not? It’s nice for him that he has such caring friend(s) and family but if he has achieved his pursuit of happiness and found something that makes him truly happy in an unconventional way, shouldn’t we be pleased for him? Just because he doesn’t subscribe to the same notions of happiness that most people do, does it really give us the right to bully him into changing. Eventually he decides to take the plunge and give the “normal life” a shot. Does this make him happier? Does he decide to abandon his old life and settle down? Well, that wouldn’t be fair of me to spoil the ending but i can assure you it’s wholly satifying yet poses several questions.

Up in the Air might not be an Avatar with all it’s glitzy 3D special effects, or a cool ensemble such as Inglorious Basterds. But what it does provide its audience with is a picture of modern recession-era America (or the world for that matter), and a study of what is important in our own day-to-day lives. It is a wake up call to show how our dreams and aspirations can get lost without us even realising. ‘Up in the Air’ has moments of humour, wit and for some viewers, moments of self-reflection. Ultimately, it’s how we deal with these situations and if we have the ability to bounce back from them using change as a positive influence in our lives. It encourages us not take anything for granted. I for one will be taking these points on board and will no longer be afraid to live life to the full or chase my dreams. I can assure that the next time I fly long haul to Korea, I will definitely be getting that second dinner.

Categories: Film, Reviews

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