Have you ever sat back and thought about cutting your ties with everything in your life and truly being free? This would mean that you have no spouse to come home to, no dog waiting to see you, and no gutters to clean out as the leaves start to fall. This is the kind of life Ryan Bingham (George Cloony) would like you to consider and also the life he lives, a life of single serving friends and front of the line frequent flier mile perks. Bingham’s life has been reduced to a carry on bag and he is fine with this.
Ryan Bingham spends most of his time in the air flying from failing company to failing company to fire the people that corporate executives are too afraid to fire. The only break from this routine comes from the occasional motivational seminar that Ryan conducts to promote his minimalistic life. Ryan asks people to imagine their lives fitting into a small backpack and how this backpack weighs their lives down, you can see where he goes from there. The only problem in Ryan’s perfect life is that it’s all about to change as the company that he works for is about to take him out of the air and place him behind a desk to fire people via video conference to save overhead. Before this transition can take place Ryan must take the inventor of this soulless video chat, Natalie Keener(Anna Kendrick), across the county to see how things are done and hopefully put an end to this ridiculous idea.
In an attempt to teach Natalie about the true human connection that his line of work requires, Ryan himself learns about the connections he is lacking. This is where Up in the Air is truly special, as it shows the fragility of human life. Up in the Air is the story of a life changing emotional realization and the idea that even one look in a different direction can change your life forever. This idea would have never came through on the screen with out the fantastic acting from all of the film’s cast members and mostly, George Clooney(Michael Clayton, Ocean’s 11).
I’m always up for the more serious Clooney and I got everything I could ask for when it came to Up in the Air. Clooney plays Ryan with an honesty that is hard to come by in the land of robots and vampires that is Hollywood today. Because of Clooney, Ryan comes off with a sense of relaxed cool that almost convinces you that he is on the right path, until the life-shattering moment that he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), a woman with the same careless morals as him. As Alex says in the film, she is Ryan with a vagina, this is true as they live seemingly similar lives. During the moments where Ryan starts to change and starts to feel for other people again is where we can see Clooney really shine through. During these moments you can see why everyone is talking about Clooney for Oscar consideration.
Vera Farmiga (Nothing but the Truth, Orphan) plays Alex with the a sense of warmth in Ryan’s cold world. She brightens up a film that is bleak and gray even in the colorful setting of Miami where moments of the film take place. With out the warm acting of Farmiga, this film would not have worked as the audience is asked to fall in love with Alex right along with Ryan. Alex is not alone when it comes to Up in the Air’s female warmth, Anna Kendrick (Twilight, The Twilight Saga: New Moon) plays Natalie, Ryan’s new firing sidekick and the destroyer of his world, and because of this, Ryan puts her through a gauntlet of humanity helping her become a better person when she comes out the other side.
One thing you must remember about Up in the Air is that it is a film that takes risks and if you’re looking for Hollywood’s normal lovey-dovey fair you should not look here. Up in the Air is another Love story as told through the male perspective, and as we all know when a story takes this perspective it’s usually not a good thing for the characters, just look at The Graduate or Romeo and Juliet. As much as Up in the Air is a love story it’s also a story about the connection of people and the effects we can choose to have on each other’s daily lives.
As I sit here and write this, I realize that this film has everything I have come to love about my favorite love films and that leaves me with an eerie feeling that I’ve missed something or expected too much from Up in the Air as it has everything that should make it a film I would rave about. Instead, I was left thinking it was good but not great as it never touched me and at times felt like it was being harsh just for the sake of being different. I did, however, like that the film points out that the corporations of America have become too afraid to do their own dirty work and show no care when it comes to the people that make them what they are. So because of this nice little twist to the film I was saddened when I came out thinking it was just good and nothing to write home about.
I give Up in the Air 3.5 “Great male-driven love stories” out of 5.
by Ryan Davis