‘Up in the Air’: A Nice Touch


Official promotional image, 2009

Find me one person who doesn’t love George Clooney, male or female. Everyone loves George Clooney, or at least likes him. And in his newest film, Up in the Air, he proves once and for all that he’s the only actor who can really get away with “just playing George Clooney” every time. And why? Because he’s so good that roles are made for him, and he has the talent and charisma to excel at every role.

The quickness in his witty speech, the smirks, and the “not-so-family middle-aged guy” quality we all expect from Clooney are ever-present in this movie. He plays Ryan Bingham: a non-committal, attractive older man who travels most of the days of the year to fire people for a living. The bigger catch? He thoroughly enjoys it. He succeeds with this role to the point that you’re convinced there’s no other actor who could have possibly portrayed Bingham.

His female counterpart (who actually says in the film to think of her as him, “but with a vagina”), played by Vera Farmiga, is a strikingly powerful traveling business woman and seemingly as non-committal as Bingham. However, superficially, she seems to be the incarnation of a modern man’s fantasy – pointing out that she’s “flexible” in bed and has experimented with other women. Nonetheless, she helps to nicely balance out Clooney’s character and they make a good pair throughout the film.

While all the Elliott Smith and other downer acoustic songs seemed out of place, the movie seems to get more insightful towards the last quarter. While most of the film was dedicated to how Bingham lives his life and does his job, the last part deals with how that’s affected his relationships (or lack thereof).

It’s a reflective film that actually has enough mass appeal to please both mainstream and more independent-loving audiences. It gives people what they want in terms of humor and love story, but it doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. It doesn’t tie everything up for you in a nice, pretty bow. I could even go there and say that the resolution of the film is “up in the air” itself. Oh yeah. I went there.

Though the general Hype Bandwagon seems to think this film is life-changing and amazing, I’ll categorize it as “pretty damn good.” I enjoyed it, appreciated its touches of comical and serious truths about post-9/11 airports and today’s unemployment rate. The subject matter is timely, and yet I can see it becoming a smaller classic years from now – a film we look back on and appreciate its relevance to the time. The editing by Dana E. Glauberman is noteworthy and slightly experimental. Overall, it’s clearly a well-made film. So while director Jason Reitman obviously did a great job, I’m going to have to say that George Clooney really made it what it is.

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