Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 at 06:00 PM
Up in the Air
By: S. Tran
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Ann Kendrick, Jason Bateman
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Running Time: 108 minutes
Jason Reitman has directed a couple of my favourite movies over the last few years, "Thank You For Smoking" and "Juno". With "Up In the Air" he now has three on my list as he delivers an entertaining and thought provoking story supported by great performances from the cast. The film may not have won the Oscar for best picture, but for me it is the better movie.
Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a confirmed bachelor who works for a company that handles lay offs for other companies. Bingham loves the fact that the job allows him to travel for most of the year and considers airports and hotels to be his real home.
His world is shaken up by the introduction of two women. One is Natalie (Kendrick) a recent graduate who wants the company to start firing people over the internet. The other is Alex (Farmigan), a flirty fellow business traveler who, in her own words, is Bingham, with a vagina. Bingham begins to develop a relationship with Alex while training Natalie on the finer points of firing people. Bateman is Bingham's boss, a cold, number crunching executive who endorses Natalie's ideas over Bingham's protests.
The film reminded of "Thank You for Smoking" in the effortless way it handled an otherwise difficult proposition of asking you to cheer for a protagonist with a somewhat unsavory job. It would have been easy to demonize Bingham as some corporate ax man but the script and Clooney's performances make his character not only likable but sympathetic at the same time without going overboard into sappiness.
What I like about Reitman's films is that he seems to be able to deliver a message without sacrificing the story to get there. His directing style is natural and the movie flows nicely. I thought that every scene added something to the film and even though it clocks in at over an hour and a half there still seemed to be something very economical about the way it was put together from the editing to the sparing use of music.
The movie's premise is also very timely and I think that helps add to the sense of identification with the characters and the story. In lesser hands the scenes where people are being fired might have come off as condescending or in bad taste. But between the directing and great acting there is a mixture of humour and sadness that somehow works.
As with all great movies characters need to evolve and the film allows for this without getting too Hollywood on us. We can buy the changes we see Bingham go through because the set up has been artfully and carefully done. His reactions to the events around him make sense in the context of the film yet there is enough "drama" to evoke feelings, after all this is a movie.
Everyone in the talented cast gave great performances. Clooney is his usual cool, self. I thought his best work was near the end and would have liked to have seen more of that aspect to the character.
Kendrick was odd, but likable as the fresh faced business grad with the big ideas. I can't say she would have been my first choice for the role but for some reason her weirdness worked to give the movie a bit more flavour. Farmiga and Bateman are also solid and Bateman, in my mind, is the best supporting actor in the business today.
"The Hurt Locker" may have been the Academy's choice, but this is mine for the best film of last year, at least of the ones I have seen.
4.5 stars out of 5