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Up in the Air

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

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Sincere, Honest Portrayal of Life and Just How Cruel Life Can Be...

  • Apr 8, 2010

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 this film would give you that the film is some sort of romantic comedy with a guy who never had time for love who finally finds love, but don’t let it fool you. I hate romantic comedies and I guarantee that this movie is not a romantic comedy. “Up in the Air” is more like a movie about humanity, redemption and disappointments as they all come tumbling down.
Ryan (George Clooney) is a man whose job demands him to be on the road (well, actually up in the air) about more than 300 days in a year. His job is something about helping companies do their ‘lay offs’ and ‘restructuring’; Ryan fires people and he has become very good at it. Ryan can predict the most complex human emotion and manage to help the person deal with that moment of depression. In between jobs, Ryan is a motivational speaker for “What’s in your backpack?”, the idea of this theory is that there is nothing that you can comfortably carry. 

          George Clooney as Ryan Bingham and Vera Farmiga as Alex Goran in "Up in the Air."

                           Melanie Lynskey as Julie Bingham and George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in "Up in the Air."
One day, a hot shot newcomer named Natalie (Anna Kendrick) comes along to propose a cheaper, more efficient method of firing people and that is through the impersonal use of the internet. Ryan disagrees and their boss decides to let Natalie tag along with Ryan to prove her theories. Well, we all know that it all comes down to the bottom line and public image right? Wrong. Well, Ryan also has built a relationship with beautiful woman named Alex (sexy Vera Farmiga, Running Scared, Orphan) with whom he hooks up with when the opportunity presents itself. There’s also his sister’s wedding; so should he take Alex with him?
I guess what really made me appreciate “Up in the Air” is the way the story is told. The screenplay allows the viewer to look into the life of the folks who spend most of their time traveling and it is a very interesting look. It was kind of intriguing to see this world, as Ryan has come to call it home. Clooney makes for a very charismatic performance that I thought he carried the weight of the film quite well. The film has so many layers of humanity going for it, it has that “old guard and new guard” theme going for it between Ryan and Natalie, as the film makes its case with modern technology making old-fashioned personal relations, sweat and blood hard work be replaced. 

              George Clooney as Ryan Bingham and Vera Farmiga as Alex Goran in "Up in the Air."

                                      Anna Kendrick as Natalie Keener and George Clooney as Ryan Bingham in "Up in the Air."
The film becomes more difficult to watch the longer the film goes about its sequences. In this days of lay-offs and multi-national restructuring, the film strikes very close to home and covers an area that we can all relate to. It was clever to include real unemployed people as the folks who were laid off to give a more believable performance and speak as if they were actually being laid off. The film is based on the novel by Walter Kirn with the script being written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner; I was quite impressed with the manner that the plot was laid out to be entertaining and yet so powerful in its message just how life can be ruthless at times. I thought it was smart to have the layers of Ryan’s character become dissected piece by piece.
“Up in the Air” is a sort of a parallel as to being always in the move and in the plane, also as in being stuck in limbo or having no direction. Clooney’s character fits this description as he lives this life that seems fulfilling; he has a great salary and has special perks with all the hotels, airlines and even car rentals. His home is where he is at the moment and he never regrets having to look back. There’s a saying that goes “you don’t know what you’re missing till you get a taste” and Ryan gets to know this saying very intimately. Human beings have the uncanny ability to adapt and find satisfaction when the situation suits them, it is only until one sees what the other side looks like that one realizes what he wants and what he thinks he needs. Ryan looks at things as never let anything hold you back; no marriage, no kids, no commitment…boy , is he in for a huge wake up call, as he realizes what he wants…but is this merely a moment of allusion?
The film is excellent but I cannot really say that it's perfect. There are some things in the script that I thought that while surprising and quite frankly nicely played, felt like it was a little manufactured. I guess this was necessary to bring the points across, but I highly doubt that a certain detail about someone would be shared that easily given the circumstances. I thought this was a small plot misstep that could’ve easily been rectified by adding a few details. This minor misstep didn’t hurt the film and I shouldn‘t nit-pick, but it was noticeable.
Well, I thought “Up in the Air” was deliciously entertaining but never fun. I am a sucker for movies that have a depressing premise and while this movie’s direction seem to go on a crowd-pleasing route, Reitman’s direction was engaging and honest with what the film needed to convey. I also loved the climax as you see Ryan looking at the crossroads of his life; an airport full of memories and portals to new adventures. Ryan’s backpack isn’t empty at the end of the film, but where he goes from here, it is all a matter of perspective. Ryan just needs to figure out what he wants than what he needs.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
HYPE LEVEL: It Lives Up to its expectations. It had the Right Tools to be the Best Drama of 2009.

4 ½ Stars: Sincere, Honest Portrayal of Life and Just How Cruel Life Can Be... 4 ½ Stars: Sincere, Honest Portrayal of Life and Just How Cruel Life Can Be...

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May 31, 2010
I'm going to have to watch this one. I was afraid that it might be one of those "wring the emotion" out of you films. But it sounds like something I'd appreciate. I love movies that lean toward what makes a person tick. Gotta be in the right mood for them though. Thanks for the great review.
May 31, 2010
Oh no, it is not overwrought at all. It had a great balance of emotions and humor and it does feel like something we can all relate to especially during these times. Thank you for the comment and the read.
April 15, 2010
I was wondering about this one man, thanks for the great review.
May 31, 2010
check it out, buddy!
April 09, 2010
Glad you liked it Woop. I was pleased that they didn't opt to take a crowd pleasing PRETTY WOMAN approach to the ending. I thought it was a good solid 4 star dramedy that led you to believe it was a romantic comedy and then deftly slipped the knife in between your ribs.
April 09, 2010
I think it they took a more 'happy route' I would've knocked a star off my rating. The little twist with Alex was surprising and changed the tone from what I thought was going to be predictable. I also enjoyed the bits with Natalie when she did her first firings.
April 09, 2010
I personally enjoyed her first firings with the toughTeamster who broke down in tears when he was fired. For me that was totally unpredictable. Of course as you pointed out that was among her first firings.
April 10, 2010
Yeh. This one really surprised me. It was a treat to find a hidden gem in a mainstream release.
April 11, 2010
There's another Clooney flick that I'm dying to see-it's next on my list. I'm really pissed off that I missed it in the theaters. It's one that I really intended to see but things just kept coming up and it closed before I could get to it.
April 11, 2010
April 11, 2010
May 16, 2010
so have you seen it yet? I was going to rent it but I opted to hold off.
May 20, 2010
Oh yeah. I wanted to catch it when it was in the theaters, but I missed it. I got it as a rental as soon as it came out..
April 08, 2010
I really liked this film. It was more sophisticated, mature, and realistic than just about any other dramedy I've seen in the past year. And who knew that an actress from "Twilight" would be able to act?!
April 08, 2010
I liked the film's ending and the way that his realtionship with Alex was developed. (despite some missteps with it) It is realistic and has a very good approach. I have great respect for the actress who played Natalie and Farmiga was sooo hot! (even for an older woman)
April 08, 2010
The scene where Vera shows off her bum was impressive. For a woman her age she has an incredible physique. It would be nice to see her in more demanding roles dramatically though. I've only seen her in three films and she's always playing second fiddle to some big name star.
April 11, 2010
I am considering buying the dvd just because of that scene with Farmiga...LOL
April 11, 2010
What a shocker! I never thought you would have even noticed. ; )
April 08, 2010
See, this is the kind of movie I get confused about.  All those nominations for Best Picture and stuff and when I watched it, I didn't quite feel just like everyone else.  I thought it was entertaining, but I always felt that Reitman's style was a bit too... how can I say this... charming and soft for the kind of stuff that Up in the Air is really tackling.  It spends a lot more time being likable than anything else.  It's really good, but it's not the kind of movie I'll find myself actually remembering any time soon.  I've enjoyed Reitman's other films.  But they all seem to have that kind of problem.  They're more about being charming in what they're trying to say than they are about being honest.  It makes for good, charming, fun... but they're so surreal in how it all unfolds that sometimes I keep wondering what's so... well... "deep" about some of them.  I thought Thank You for Smoking was an awesome satire and I really liked Juno as well.  And while I thought Up in the Air was good enough for a +4, I just didn't come out seeing the depth that everyone else apparently sees... it's probably my least favorite Reitman, despite being really good.  It's hard to express what I mean really.  It's like the writer who writes about an issue but decides to play it safe while doing it.  That's what Up in the Air does with me.  It doesn't really dive in.  I guess Reitman has talent that he can keep some of the people who want that sort of depth silenced because he makes movies that are hard not to like.

So I agree with you, basically, but I'm a little harsher about it.  It's a good movie but it's also a safe movie.  Sometimes playing it "safe" doesn't always work as well.  But I'd probably watch this one again because, yeah, it's pretty damn good.  I don't think it's Best Picture or Best Drama kind of stuff (I just think it's one of those movie that can really charm the critics) but it's still really good.
April 08, 2010
I see your point. I know having a screenplay this charming can sometimes cause the viewer to feel a little puzzled as to why a depressing premise can be presented in this manner. Well, I never liked Juno, (but it had its moments) so I cannot really defend that one. As with this film, I think it was a way to bring Ryan's life as something he has a positive attitude about and that people go about their life just trying to 'live' and keep a positive attitude. I guess Reitman is expressing the idea that life sneaks up on us, and even when we stay positive (or safe) things just happen that puts a monkey wrench in our plans.

I am with you, it is really good but far from perfect; which is why my weak 4.5 rating is rounded down. I also had an issue with two things about Alex, but maybe I was just nit-picking. I really don't think this mocie should've given Clooney a nomination, but it can be nominated just because of the limited competition.

Another thing, Vera Farmiga was ultra-hot!
April 09, 2010
I didn't find much of it realistic either... like I said, if it were more real, I think would be a bit more hard hitting in that case.  I think it just has that darling charm to it that makes it fun and enjoyable. 
April 09, 2010
yeh, I can see that. But we still gotta admire Reitman for putting together a concept like this.
More Up in the Air reviews
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.
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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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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