Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Up in the Air

This 2009 drama by Juno director Jason Reitman gives the audience a glimpse Ryan Bingham a man whose job is firing people. Companies hire his company to let people go from their positions. And why would they do this and not just fire their employees on their own? Well, because Bingham is very good at his job. By the time he’s done with you, you’re likely to feel like this is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. He’s so good his company sends him all over the world. He sells books, he gives speeches and seminars. In other words, he’s good. Problem is, to be good at a job like that it means you must always be gone and your heart must be cold as ice. His apartment looks like it’s vacant and he simply has no relationships. Just as he’s hitting the peak of his game, two game-changers get tossed his way. First, he meets a girl that has him feeling things he’s not sure he’s ever felt before. And, two, his company is likely doing away with in-person firing and has hired a 20-year-old wiz kid to implement the plan of Skype-esque firing. The company wants this young lady with almost no experience to travel with Mr. Experience to broaden her understanding of how it all works. Neither of them likes the idea and, in the end, both grow by being stretched like this. After these two major life changes, Ryan has to decide how he’s going to proceed in this life.

It seems the whole world loves this movie. It just won a handful of Golden Globes and people are saying this is Clooney’s best performance to date. Reitman seems to have a nack for sucking people into the lives of his offbeat characters, but unlike Juno, this flick is very grounded and seems very realistic. In fact, Reitman had non-actors play the part of the vast majority of the people fired in this movie. He simply set up a camera and asked them about their recent experiences being fired. He edited that footage into the movie as though Ryan was talking to them.

While this movie is certainly well acted and clearly the product of a talented director, I must confess it didn’t suck me in almost at all. I didn’t think about it when I left and when I sat down to write this review I had to do a little memory refresh. My biggest problem was that I’m not sure Reitman nailed down what he wanted to say. For example, he spent a great deal of time showing these gut wrenching scenes of firings, clearly trying to have us see the horror of it, but then he’d switch to working diligently to get us to sympathize with and even adore Ryan. The message jumped back and forth like that. An even better example is that my wife and I left the theater remembering the ending totally differently than the other did. Because of this, I never felt all that engaged. Still, not a bad movie by any means, just not that memorable.


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