Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Air Out

For about a month now I've had to read various reviews as well as testimonials from movie fans about a great new movie called Up In The Air. While I was having loads of fun watching New Moon, Armored, and Did You Hear About The Morgans, these people were just chirping away happily about Jason Reitman's latest instant classic offering. Well guess what? I have now seen Up In The Air and am firmly placed on the cutting edge of three weeks ago.

This is based on a book written in 2001 but, in a lucky break for the filmmakers, the economy has collapsed thus making this the perfect time for a story about a man who fires people for a living. I'm sure the champagne and party hats were broken out at the Jason Reitman household when that happened. George Clooney does some of his best work as Ryan Bingham, a man who is hired by companies to do their firing for them. Bingham really likes his job which sounds odd but he doesn't see it as a vicious or heartless service. He tries to present this as an opportunity and, occasionally, succeeds in making the poor schmuck who just lost his or her job feel better.

Bingham spends most of the year on the road doing this and he loves it. He's an expert in this lifestyle and meets the perfect woman in the form of Vera Farmiga's Alex Goran, a fellow road warrior who delights in the idea of meeting Ryan for occasional, passionate hookups whenever they're within driving distance of each other. Unfortunately, Irony decides to visit Bingham, move in and eat all his food when his boss, Gregory Craig (the always good Jason Bateman) pulls him off the road and tells him that they'll now be firing people over internet video chats and that, though he'll still have a job, his beloved lifestyle will now end. He goes on one last road trip with the recent college graduate, the bubbly, awkward Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) and tries to do what the people he's been firing all these years have had to do: figure out what's next.

This life-in-transition story makes for an excellent film. Clooney and Vera Farmiga make acting look effortless as they move confidently and masterfully through their world. Anna Kendrick plays an excellent counterpoint to that couple as her Natalie Keener looks completely lost in the world of airports, hotel rooms and strange cities and moves like a girl who literally has a stick up her rectum*. Together they join Ryan in his search for "What's Next" as, like the people he fires and, for that matter, most people, he didn't really have a Plan B in the event his life was suddenly and dramatically altered.

Up In The Air is as good as everyone said it was. Jason Reitman pretty much owns the label "One of America's Best Filmmakers" with this and shows us that Juno and Thank You For Smoking weren't flukes. It's worthy of being included in the genre of other great life-in-transition movies like About A Boy or High Fidelity.

As someone who recently had to face his "What's Next?" phase of his life, I can relate to the quality and accuracy of this movie. Nah, I'm just kidding. Life's been going swimmingly for me. That sounded good, though.

*I swear, I mean this as a compliment on her performance and acting ability.

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