Friday, March 15, 2013

Up In The Air (Jason Reitman, 2009)

"Ryan Bingham: And they put your name on the side of a plane. 
 Natalie Keener: Men get such hardons from putting their names on things. You guys don't grow up. It's like you need to pee on everything."

  The dialogue in Up In The Air, y'all! Probably some of my favorite exchanges in film. The three lead actors have such chemistry with each other that all of the other actors become insignificant, which does become one of the film's faults. George Clooney carries the film as Ryan Bingham, a man who is hired by companies to fire their employees and talk to them about the employment package offered by the company. His job   requires him to travel a lot to businesses across the nation, wherein he states that last year he only spent some 40 days home. Bingham, however, enjoys his life on the road as it keeps him away from the desolation he finds at home. He has never been married, has no children, and refuses any sort of commitment, even from his two sisters. He loves being recognized by airport employees, going to hotels, and his main goal is to earn 10 million frequent flyer miles. If he manages to achieve his goal, he will earn lifetime executive status, get to meet the chief pilot, and his name will appear on the side of a plane. On one of his travels, Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), a frequent traveler much like himself. The two recognize their palpable chemistry, hook up, and coordinate their schedules to meet again. Upon his return to Omaha, where his company is located, Ryan is enraged to find new recruit Natalie (Anna Kendrick) f*cking shit up for him by proposing to their boss that instead of spending so much money on traveling cross country, they should instead fire people via video chat. Ryan strongly opposes the idea, leading to his boss Craig (Jason Bateman) suggesting that he takes Natalie with him on his next travel to show her the ropes. Begrudgingly he does so. The unlikely pair soon find a mutual respect growing between them, when Ryan recognizes Natalie's fear to fire people face to face. Ryan accepts his fate to remain grounded in Omaha and starts to rekindle his relationship with his sisters, one of which is getting married soon. Nonetheless, he pursues a relationship with Alex and begins seeing in himself the first signs of falling in love.

  I placed this DVD in my laptop on a whim. A dormmate mentioned that he had it, I love Clooney, so I didn't see why not. I was taken by the film by the opening sequence, which did not even feature people. The cinematography is gorgeous, changing the mood from shot to shot but retaining cohesiveness throughout. Clooney, Farmiga, Kendrick and to a lesser extent Bateman (more so due to screen time) are excellent in their roles. Clooney is really one of the most natural actors to have ever graced the screen. He often gets accused of just playing himself, over and over again. Yet, I think this is an effect of his natural acting style. Perhaps, the roles he picks do indeed match his real-life persona. That he manages to infuse them with life and his innate charm are due for praise. Anna Kendrick is as annoying, cute, adorable as ever. Vera Farmiga has never been sexier and more alluring than here; but trust me, there is more under her character's facade than one originally thinks. It is this duality of the film that does become its demise. When Ryan stops being on the road around the halfway mark, the film loses much of its appeal and falls into charted territory. In this way, we come to echo Ryan's yearning to be set free once again from the limitations of the genre. What begins as a movie exploring themes of existentialism soon turns into the usual romantic drama fare. Furthermore, no other actor besides the three leads manages to shine, other than Bateman and Tamala Jones in her minor role as a fired employee who takes the news calmly and threatens suicide. After the three leads share the screen together and are then separated, the film feels like it is missing something as nobody else is able to sustain the chemistry. Thankfully, the ending is wholly satisfying, however sad it may be. It is the three lead performances, the first half and the ending that make this film so appealing and so successful. One of my most unexpected love affairs (well, more like one night stands) with cinema.

Ludovico Rating


  1. It nice to read a review of this film a few years after its release because back in 09 everybody raved about it, yet I had some doubts.I enjoyed the movie but thought many people were just swept away by how the events of the film related to the current economic times. I wondered how this film would hold up as time went on. In another 25 years will people look back and still think its a worthy of being a Best Picture nominee?
    I do agree about the performances in this film (of course I always love Clooney) and you have convinced me that if might be time to pull this one out of the closet once again.

    1. I definitely think it derails around the second half, but still a very good film. Perhaps a slightly bit overrated indeed. :D