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Up in the Air

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

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A Movie that Flies Safely

  • Mar 27, 2010
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 when it wasn't.  That was mostly in part because of Diablo Cody.  Juno is a fine movie--absolutely fantastic.  Up in the Air, however gives me the same feeling at the end.  That the movie is good, but one that gets a little too much credit.  In the world of Jason Reitman, however, it's probably not as good as Juno.  It's close, however. 

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who makes his living by flying all over the United States and firing people for business that don't have the guts to do it themselves.  Over the years he's taken pride in his work.  Mostly the flying aspect.  He loves to fly and he's on a mission to achieve 10 million frequent flyer miles.  He would only be the 7th person to do so.  While traveling around he meets a woman named Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) and they have affairs on their travels where they both plan to meet up if they happen to be in the same location.  Things are going great in Ryan's world until a college graduate decides that there has to be a way to change things.  Her name is Natalie Keener (Alex Kendrick) and her idea is that why send their employees all over the United States when they could easily do it from the comfort of an office.  They can do it over the internet without having to fly from one state to another.  Ryan's boss thinks this may actually be a good idea (it can save on costs).  Ryan, however, isn't going to be deterred from his quest for 10 million frequent flyer miles.  More than that, however, he sees the downside in this approach. That being that should someone want to confront their boss they can and just leave them hanging on the internet.

Seeing how soft she is, however, Ryan's boss (played by Jason Bateman) decides he should show Natalie the ropes.  So now Ryan has to travel with Natalie and learn the ropes.  The first thing she's going to have to learn... is how to travel.  The next thing she's going to have to learn, is how to fire someone.  It's clear that they're not in the buisiness of being sympathetic.  They're in the business of doing their job.  And Ryan is a veteran at it.  He's charming and friendly about it.  While Natalie is softer.  In trying to be kind, people are often walking on her.  She realizes the hardships of the job when a woman threatens to kill herself by jumping off a bridge.  As Ryan explains, a lot of people are in an emotional state where they're very vulnerable.

Our three main characters, Ryan, Alex and Natalie are all very likeable and played by a great cast... but the movie doesn't start off in such a way that the point really comes out.  In fact, for about the first half hour or so of the film it's easy to spend time scratching your head and wondering, "What the hell makes this movie so great?"  When we finally begin to dive into the personal lives of these characters it comes out.  For one thing, we see just how lonely Ryan is in the sense that he doesn't really believe in love.  We learn secrets about Alex and we see what kind of person Natalie is.  It's Ryan who we learn a lot about, and just what his traveling all over the world gives him.  He may love to do it, but it doesn't help him in the family department... a family that hardly sees him.  He's like a phantom to them.

Up in the Air is, by all accounts, a movie that doesn't really have a story of sorts, but rather is a character driven affair.  There's hardly anything here which screams "awesome" about the movie.  And while it's most defintely a good movie and fun to watch... in part because the script is great and well acted.  It's just hard not to have a feeling that you've wasted time watching it.  There's a lot the movie has to say.  About family, about our state as a country (the sense that the movie makes unemployment a very central theme as well as family).  It's one of those movies that might be mistaken for artsy in its approach but it's pretty easy stuff to understand and take in.  It's just one of those movies that, while good, is one I never understood or even appreciated how much people seem to love it.  In the first place, while it's a very fine tuned script... for a movie that's been branded a comedy... Up in the Air sure as hell isn't all that funny.  The script is, for the most part, air tight.  With witty dialog and all, but it just doesn't have much to laugh at.  The film has been branded time and time again as a satire... and it is.  There just isn't that much humor to be found within it.  That's not to say you won't laugh, it's only to say that there are many moments which are clearly supposed to be funny... but really aren't. 

Up in the Air gets by with good performances, a well written script and just all around being a good movie.  If there was one part where it is strong, it would definitely be the screenplay in and of itself.  It's got a lot of good writing, but the movie doesn't fancy itself as being too clever with quirky dialog that consistently falls flat.  The only thing the movie really fools itself on is that it's not as funny as it thinks it is. But it most certainly is more natural.

On the other hand, perhaps what is troubling about Up in the Air is the same thing that's troubling about it is the same thing that's troubling about Juno... it has a way of really sugar coating much of what it's trying to say.  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.

It works, though.  I mean, Up in the Air is definitely a great movie.  It does just about everything well.  It just isn't as hard hitting as it could be.  Perhaps that's Reitman's trick of the trade.  Many have said that he's able to make movies in the classic sense that most directors can no longer attain.  That sort of rosy colored picture of tough issues that were done in movies of the past.  I don't know about that, but it's pretty clear Jason Reitman has talent.  While taking on some pretty heavy issues he has made sure to play things safe.  In spite of some of the language used in Up in the Air (the only portion of which could be considered offensive--at least enough for the MPAA to give an "R" Rating) Reitman keeps things from getting out of hand and controversial.  What you're getting is something that, like his previous movies, feels a little sugar coated.  In some movies that's fine, but for Up in the Air you kind of wish Reitman would dive in. 

Like Juno, it's probably destined to become a cult classic.  The movie you either really love or the movie you really hate.  Or, in the case of some people, a movie people love to hate.  It's a good movie worth watching.  It may not really be that funny, but that doesn't make the writing bad at all.  And while some are apt to walk out thinking, "What was the point of that movie?" others are probably going to walk out being satisfied.

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March 31, 2010
I love the irony in this film, and I really like the fact that they didn't cop out and give it the ending that I was afraid they were going to give it. (Don't want to put any spoilers in here.) I haven't seen JUNO so I can't really compare it to that film, but I rather liked the style in which it was done and the fact that it wasn't hard hitting. It made all it's points in a much more subtle manner. For instance who expected the big teamster to be the one who broke down crying when he got his computerized termination?
March 28, 2010
I just saw this a couple nights ago and I really liked it. It's a more sophisticated and mature film than what I've seen from Reitman so far. I still like "Thank You for Smoking" the most though since it was so outrageous and un-PC.
March 28, 2010
Thank You For Smoking is my favorite one too, but it's the one that, for whatever reason, I meet more people who don't really like it.
March 28, 2010
Well, some people take satire at face value.
March 31, 2010
I loved THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, very subversive.
March 31, 2010
March 28, 2010
I still have this at home to watch so I just glanced at your review so I don't get to take your ideas on it since I may review it soon. I'll be back to read more and comment after I see the movie. All I know is that I am in for it for Vera Farmiga!
March 28, 2010
I have good things about this film and you review only confirms what I have been told. Sounds to me like a well written and well acted film. We could sure use more films like this one these days. Thanks for your interesting take on this one.
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 . 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.
review by . March 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Up In The Air is a good movie. George Clooney and Vera Framiga are incredibly pleasant to watch in this film. Jason Bateman was outstanding as the boss. I thought Anna Kendrick was OK as an over educated college graduate. The film is about 15 minutes too long, the second act dragged a bit.     But, the bonus features of this DVD are almost worth the price of admission. The deleted scenes are priceless - George Clooney assembles Ikea furniture, cleans out a toilet, and wears a …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … 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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