Thursday, March 10, 2011

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman is now three for three with me when it comes to make films that are both very funny, and touching or moving on at least some level. He's back to directing his own screenplay here, although it's again based on a book, though one that doesn't seem easy to translate to the screen. It's about a man played by George Clooney who travels all over the country all year long firing people for companies who don't want to get their hands dirty doing it themselves. He spends most of his days getting yelled at and pleaded with by all of the people he breaks the bad news to, and has developed a highly optimized system and unusually disconnected philosophy of living, where he feels no real attachment to anything where he lives when not traveling or even his family, and merely goes about his job, sleeping with the occasional fellow traveler and racking up millions of frequent flier miles.

The scenes showing him go about his routine are slickly filmed and edited, and the role fits Clooney like a glove, a little smarmy and arrogant but not unlikable. But of course that's not the whole movie, as things start to change when two women entire his lives. The first is a talented new colleague played by Anna Kendrick who has come up with a way to use the internet instead of flying everywhere to do their jobs, which could eventually phase out the travel aspect of his job completely. The second is an attractive fellow frequent flier played by Vera Farmiga, who's interesting enough that he eventually develops deeper feelings toward than just wanting to get her in bed. The three all got nominated for Oscars, and they're all fairly outstanding in the film. Clooney gets closer to both women over the course of the story, and they both help him grow as a person, and at least attempt to get something more out of his life. Jason Bateman is also good as Clooney's boss, and there's plenty of small appearances by recognizable, solid comic actors like Danny McBride and J.K. Simmons that add flavor to the scenes they're in.

I can see an argument that Up in the Air is style over substance, and that it's capitalizing on the bad economy and job market to appeal to people emotionally. But I thought that stuff made all the scenes of the characters working have more weight and importance, and I can't help but wonder why people wouldn't want to see such a well crafted and produced film. Right from the stylish and classy opening credits, the film is just impeccably put together, and immensely satisfying and enjoyable from start to finish. I guess I can see how one would think Jason Reitman's style is just a touch too polished, too spot on, not experimental enough. But I think people might not give him enough credit for just being good at getting the little things right. The cast and their performances are great, the script is tight as a drum, and the film has a lot of powerful moments without hitting you over the head with them. Little stuff here and there that adds up over time to a film that is at no time annoying or boring or nonsensical. It all fits together into a movie that I have a hard time seeing anybody call their favorite, but that very few should have difficulty liking. And I liked it a lot.

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