Zip. Sluuff. Swoosh. Spin. Click. Zup. Snap. Swush. The sounds in Up in the Air are half the movie. Cinematography and audio meet in the silence of travel’s preparation. These are the noises that precede transitory voices of new friends loved for a moment between longitudes, latitudes and altitudes.
Up in the Air, the literal reality and the metaphor, takes you on a voyage with some of the best of Hollywood: George Clooney, Jason Bateman (rising to more new heights), newly emerging Anna Kendrick and veteran TV and movie actress Vera Farmiga, along with Danny McBride, writer of The Heartbreak Kid (2007). George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, the opposite of a corporate headhunter. He is a corporate terminator: He is sent by his parent company to corporate clients to fire individuals from great jobs all over the map. The occupational hazards are the unpredictable and possibly violent reactions of the ones being “let go.” Bingham calls himself as a “wake-up call,” the dawning of a new day of opportunity in the sea of life.
His company, CTC, needs to trim its sails a bit, so they hire a corporate-whiz psychology graduate from Cornell to implement cost saving restructuring, but first Ryan needs to make room in his elegant high-in-the-sky coracle (little round one-man boat) and show her “the ropes” of the corporate firing world. Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick, is brash, outspoken, irritating, arrogant and she wears her hair in a really unprofessional looking ponytail—but then again—no hairstyles for women these days are what one would call professional, are they?
Jason Bateman, playing Ryan’s boss Craig Gregory, delivers a great bit complete with visual aid and Ryan’s eye-rolling reaction of “Here we go….” Bateman says, “This is the boat. This is you. Do you want to be in the boat?” This bit ties in with the movie’s water and sailing motif. Even though Ryan’s real life is up there, up in the air with other people who live on planes and crossed and re-crossed time zones, sailing and water metaphors call forth visions of tossing on ocean waves or maybe drowning in tossing storms. Of course, the metaphor of things, including Ryan’s “real” life, being up in the air takes first place as is reflected by the title. Another interesting thematic motif is real life versus “real” life.
Then Ryan meets a charming business woman named Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga, and after comparing the privileges held within their collection of plastic cards, the crowning glory of which is Ryan’s Concierge Key card, being up in the air takes on new meanings as Up in the Air takes twists and turns. Vera Farmiga is energetic and likable in her role as Alex. She makes you think of health and charismatic personableness, qualities that corporate travelers must posses in order to keep going and enjoy keeping on going. Farminga has previously been in such films as Neverwas (2005), The Departed (2006), Never Forever (2007) and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008).
Bateman and Clooney have a great onscreen antagonism as Craig Gregory effortlessly exerts his authority to keep Ryan flying in the right direction. Clooney caps this collection of excellent performances with his rendition of the new breed of professional—“a mutation”—who lives everywhere but at home. Kendrick is the only one whose abrasiveness and rasping voice don’t homogenize with the smooth flight of the film; she seems to be the turbulence in the production. Before Up in the Air, Kendrick was in Rocket Science (2007), Twilight (2008), Elsewhere (2009), and New Moon (2009). Though she seems to carry the intensity of emotional acting well, her work in the realism of the Drama/Romance genre—despite award recognition—may need more maturity—and a little more voice clarity training.
Since Ryan and Alex aren’t bashful about intimacy with airborne strangers, R-rated Up in the Air is only suitable for mature adults who have no objections to watching intimacy onscreen. Up in the Air is a superior mature film for mature individuals that is well-worth watching.
Up in the Air (2009)
Jason Reitman – Director
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner – Screenplay writers
George Clooney – Ryan Bingham
Jason Bateman – Craig Gregory
Vera Farmiga – Alex Goran
Anna Kendrick – Natalie Keener
Danny McBride – Jim Miller
[Up in the Air reviewed from Reviewer's private DVD collection.]