Not only is Up in the Air doing great box office at the moment, but it's also a fantastic triumph of a story. It's entertaining, uplifting, romantic, funny, relevant and bittersweet - what more could you ask for your buck in today's economy?Jason Reitman's movie is far funnier and superior to his earlier endeavour, the slightly underwhelming Juno (although only because it was so over-hyped). On this occasion, you won't be disappointed as there's a strong timely premise, great characters and fantastic performances all around.
George Clooney is like a good wine, smooth, full-bodied and getting better with age. You can't help but like his character in this movie, even though he's done all he can to distance himself from making a connection with others.
The basic premise of the movie is that Clooney's character, 'Ryan Bingham' travels around the Unites States firing people for people who don't have the nerve to do it themselves, all the while amassing loyalty points for airlines, hotels and car rental companies.
In these severe economic times, business is booming and new college graduate 'Natalie', played brilliantly by Anna Kendrick (of Twilight fame), suggests a new impersonal video conferencing system to fire staff remotely, effectively grounding Ryan and his fellow corporate down-sizers.
George Clooney and Vera Farmiga compare loyalty cards
Ryan loves his 'living out of a suitcase' lifestyle (which he packs impeccably, a talent I would love to attain), has no real personal life and as an aside even delivers motivational speeches about the value of relationship-free existence.
He also has secret aspirations of being the 7th person ever to reach 10 million miles flying American Airlines and being awarded the status that goes with the accomplishment.
As you can imagine he's not happy about the prospective changes at his company and challenges his boss and Natalie that there's more to what he does than a script and a flow-chart. So Natalie accompanies him for some on the job training around the country.
The audience I watched with certainly appreciated the easy humour and at times the film was quite close to the bone at times, especially with layoffs and redundancies rife around the globe, the scenes with the unlucky employees were especially poignant.
Anna Kendrick and George Clooney break the bad news
Plus it's so timely to see the growing integration of technology solutions in the workplace, but to also acknowledge the loss of the human element which is sometimes required. Technology is not always better.
Clooney has great chemistry with his love interest, 'Alex', played by Vera Farmiga and also a believable mentor/friend rapport with Natalie.
The story unfolds organically and we start to see Ryan making connections again first through his romance, then via a trip back home to his sister's wedding.
I also love the cinematography throughout the movie and the scenes of terrain viewed from above to punctuate each destination.
George Clooney living a life Up in the Air
Without giving too much away, it's almost heart-breaking that at the end of the movie he has his life-altering epiphany only to discover things don't always work out 'happily-ever-after'. I also think it's kind of refreshing to see the male and female roles reversed in this instance.
Fasten your seat-belts for an eminently watchable and highly entertaining movie, that deserves five ***** stars.
I do think it's the best film I've ever seen George Clooney in, without the swagger and self importance of Ocean's Eleven or kookiness of O Brother, Where Art Though?
It even made me look forward to my upcoming eleven hour transatlantic flight, although I won't be qualifying for frequent flyer privileges anytime soon...