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March 22, 2010

Review: Up in the Air

Note: I know I've begun to review movies that aren't that new, but they're ones recently released on DVD so you can buy or rent or check out online or whatever. Money and time keep me from seeing every movie I'd like to in theaters.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn, "Up in the Air" is a story of Ryan Bingham, whose job is to fly around the country firing people. To be more clear, when a company is conducting a large amount of layoffs, they bring in Ryan, or someone from his company, to do the dirty work. This could be because it is too hard of a process for some managers to deal with, or because Ryan Bingham (played by Oscar-winner George Clooney) and others like him are just so damn good at it. Ryan, much like the character of Will in "About a Boy" (played by Hugh Grant), is an island. He lives on the road, and as such is a solitary man - and he likes it this way. His business, however, is being changed by technology and new faces, when Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick, who can mostly be seen in the "Twilight" series), an up-and-coming at his company, develops a way to fire people over video conference. This new method is more efficient, but Ryan feels it is very impersonal. He is instructed to take Natalie out on the road and show her what it is really like to fire someone.

The other part of Ryan's story revolves around Alex (Vera Farmiga), a fellow frequent flyer (quite the understatement for both of them). The two are impressed with each others' travel stats and realize quickly that they are more or less the same person. Ryan meets up with Alex here and there on his trips and for the first time in his life, he begins to see himself wanting more - perhaps a serious relationship or a family of his own. As he begins to see more to life, Natalie learns the real difficulty of their business and tries to feel comfortable with the decisions she's made. What she really tries to figure out is how Ryan can live the life he does, and she questions his entire philosophy. Ryan states in the film that in the past year he had been on the road over 300 days, telling the audience, though not realizing himself, just what kind of life he lives - a lonely one.

Nominated for six Oscars, including a Best Actor nod for Clooney, and Best Supporting Actress ones for Kendrick and Farmiga (who played the love interest of both Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in 2007 Best Picture winning "The Departed"), the film hits at a time when much of America is experiencing economic issues. Director Jason Reitman ("Thank You For Smoking," and "Juno," not to mention son of famous director Ivan Reitman) says he planned to do this film adaptation as his first major release, but held off. Lucky for him, it fits in perfectly with today's America. The scenes of people being let go and speaking their minds to the camera were regular people recently let go from their jobs, given the opportunity to say what they wanted to say. I feel this movie deserved its Best Picture nomination, but rightfully so it did not win. It ends in a way that can be seen as realistic, while also feels a bit upsetting for the audience. You want Ryan Bingham to be a changed man and for everything to work out, but much like the so many let go from their jobs, not everything works out the way you think it will. There's a hopefulness to it all, however, and the idea of new beginnings is present. Like I said, not the greatest movie of the year, but definitely something to consider.

"If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in your life... were you alone?"


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