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Up in the Air

A 2009 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman.

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A Brave, Compassionate, Brilliant Film: Examining the Now

  • Feb 7, 2010
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Jason Reitman (director and co-writer with Sheldon Turner based on Walter Kirn's novel of the same name) is a bright light among the new directors of important stature. He has a style: he makes comedy films touching on serious matters (JUNO deals with teen pregnancy, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING deals with the dangers of tobacco); his films open with significant and elaborate sequences; his main characters offer highly subjective narrations and tend to be self-confident people who end up re-thinking their lives; he tends to favor continued using of a troupe of ensemble actors (here JK Simmons, Sam Elliott, James Bateman). UP IN THE AIR shares all of these traits and more. It dares to talk about firing people in a time when everyone in this country is frightened about the job market and somehow manages to show the compassion for both the victims and the perpetrators. It is a challenge of the first order and Reitman makes it work very well. This is not a feel good comedy; this is a drama with comic relief that addresses serious issues and people's responses to them - employment, relationships, marriage, and apparent self-sufficiency.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) spends his time in the air, flying to companies across the USA whose CEOs don't want the job of informing employees they are no longer needed. Ryan manages to make these encounters as human as possible and he is an artist in his work. His personal life is rather arid: his love needs are met by women on the run, he has distanced himself from his family, electing to maintain a sterile one room apartment in Omaha which he uses the few days out of the year when he is not flying. He meets a very beautiful, smart, and seductive woman Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) and a crazy courtship ensues as they meet in different cities - both being traveling business people.

Things change when Ryan's boss Craig (Jason Bateman) takes on a fresh graduate student with big ideas for reducing the costs of the company. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is smart, a focused designer of telecommunications who has sold Craig on the idea of doing the firing remotely rather than spending the money to fly Ryan et al around the country. Ryan bristles and demands that Natalie accompany him on his personalized interview firings before the company goes Skype. The two - Ryan and Natalie - are paired for an excursion of real life jobs terminations and both learn from each other. Ryan continues to have trysts with Alex and eventually Ryan, Alex and Natalie party together. Natalie discovers the human side of Ryan's work and finds the person to person contact difficult. At the same time Natalie challenges Ryan's inability to form realistic relationships with women. Hurtful things happen to each to the three fliers, causing each to re-think their career goals as well as their personal needs.

Clooney, Farmiga, and Kendrick deliver first class performances (very obviously Oscar worthy), but then so do the many cameo actors in the film: Amy Morton, Melanie Lynsky and Danny McBride as Ryan's needy family, and a long list of very brief but deeply moving cameos of people being fired by an extraordinary group of actors (casting director Mindy Marin deserves an Oscar also). The gorgeous cinematography is by Eric Steelberg and the music score is by Rolfe Kent (with a special nod to the composer and singer and guitar player who ends the movie credits with a song that summarizes the ideas of the film). And shining over all of these factors is the superlative, flawless direction of Jason Reitman. This film may have unpopular themes, but it is most assuredly on of the best films of 2009. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, February 10

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More Up in the Air reviews
review by . April 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ Stars: Sincere, Honest Portrayal of Life and Just How Cruel Life Can Be...
   I have to admit, I have never been a big fan of George Clooney nor was I incredibly impressed with director Jason Reitman’s “Juno”; but I wanted to see what all the ‘hype’ was about with the film “Up In the Air”. Well, I have to say that after all the ‘feel good’ escapist Hollywood flicks I’ve seen recently, it is very refreshing to see a film that is sincere and direct in the harsh realities of true life. The trailers of …
review by . January 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Life is not a bed of roses
It takes the mundane out of the ordinary. Face it, if not it's because of George Clooney, I don't think I'll be tempted to watch this movie, let alone do a review on it! Alright, tempted possibly, because I did spent a great deal of the last decade traveling to as many as 50 countries in the span of a few years which translated to may be 500 cities? So, there is a common thread with the movie in this regard.      However, I did not travel for work, much less …
review by . March 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
When I first heard of Up in the Air and saw that it was directed by Jason Reitman (the director of Juno) it seemed like an exciting movie to go see.  If truth be told... it is.  It's got a nice script going for it and some awesome performances.  The downside is that, much like Juno it isn't really THAT great.  Unlike Juno, however, it doesn't become more obnoxious with each viewing.  Juno had a tendency to fall flat in many areas thanks to how it thought it was being clever …
review by . December 14, 2009
A Movie About The Up-Side of Being Down-Sized
This was a charmed movie going weekend for me. I saw two five star movies back to back. The first one kept me grounded on The Road and the second took me several thousand feet Up in the Air. In a very strange and peculiar way, they are similar movies. Both are about planet earth as a wasteland. Witth The Road the wasteland is a literal one, but with Up in the Air it's my cynical projection.      As should be expected, there are several plane-view shots of uneventful U.S. cities …
review by . May 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Traveling during the holidays is always an activity that I dread. The long lines, the screaming children, the hungry children, the fighting couples, the obstinate teens. And then once you are on the plane, train and/or automobile you find yourself stuck next to the crying baby sitting in front of a child throwing a temper tantrum who finds it entertaining to repeatedly kick the back of your seat. Yes we have all had the luxury of traveling "in style", giving dirty looks to those with their …
review by . April 09, 2010
Ryan Bingham's (George Clooney) job is to fly around the country and fire people for companies who don't want to do it themselves. He likes his work and his life, which is uncomplicated by relationships or domestic demands. On one stop-over, however, Ryan meets a female version of himself (Vera Farmiga) and sparks fly.       The success of this movie must be due entirely to the good looks and charm of its leading man, because it is in no other way unusual or special. Clooney …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed watching Up in the Air. I was a bit worried this would turn into a typical Hollywood movie bashing corporations and celebrating "family values," but it's much more subtle. It's much deeper than I thought (certainly much more so than a typical George Clooney movie). Vera Farmiga and George Clooney add a lot of emotional complexity and are a joy to watch. My only disappointment was with Anna Kendrick - her acting was basically mechanical and forced. …
review by . February 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Come take a trip on one of the coolest rides of 2009.....
  every single day someone is fired, for reasons that may be oblivious to them but clear as day to there employers so they fire them but in some occasions these big shot bosses don't have the balls to do there own dirty work so they call in a specialist to sack there employees for them. In Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" George Clooney plays just that type of man. Clooney's character Ryan Bingham is charming, smart, witty, and very good at his job as you watch the …
Quick Tip by . September 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Well done movie that takes a chance with a real, but not happy ending. Clooney makes a character that starts off as being unlikeable into someone the audience truly feels sorry for in the end.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The film is so hell bent on being likeable and charming--and it is, very much so--that there are some things it just isn't willing to say... because it simply can't! It's so charming and touching in many areas that it seems really scared to really dive in others. Up in the Air is a good movie, but a lot of it just comes off as surreal for what it's trying to express and say. It paints some of its themes and messages as being a bit more rosy than they actually are.
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Up in the Air is a 2009 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman and co-written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner. It is a film adaptation of the 2001 novel Up in the Air, written by Walter Kirn. The story is about a corporate downsizer and his travels. It follows his isolated life and philosophies along with the people that he meets along the way.

Reitman started adapting the book in 2002, but did not complete the screenplay until 2008. Reitman wrote the parts specifically for George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, Sam Elliott and Zach Galifianakis. Filming was primarily in St. Louis, Missouri, which substituted for a number of other cities shown in the film. Several scenes were also filmed in Detroit, Michigan, Omaha, Nebraska, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Miami, Florida.

Reitman has heavily promoted Up in the Air with personal appearances during film festivals and other showings, starting with the Telluride Film Festival on September 5, 2009. The Los Angeles premiere was at the Mann Village Theater on Monday, November 30, 2009. Paramount scheduled a limited North American release on December 4, 2009, broadening the release on December 11, 2009 with wide release on December 23, 2009.
The National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association have named it the best picture of 2009. It has received eight Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations, six Golden Globe nominations and ...
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