UP IN THE AIR (A-)
I was able to see a special promotional screening of this movie a month ago, and I am happy to help endorse it. This is the latest film from writer/director Jason Reitman. His previous work includes Hollywood hits Thank You for Smoking and Juno. Though I did not personally love Juno like many (written by Diablo Cody), I thought the story was original and entertaining. Thank You for Smoking however, is an absolute gem and features Aaron Eckhart in one of his best roles. After seeing Up in the Air I would have to say Jason Reitman is 3 for 3 as a director on big Hollywood productions.
The best part of Thank You for Smoking is when Eckhart's character Nick Naylor is at his son's school for career day. He works for big tobacco and is explaining his job to the children when a little girl in the class interjects with her own perspective.
Girl: My mommy says smoking kills.
Nick: Oh, is your mommy a doctor?
Nick: A scientific researcher of some kind?
Nick: Well, then she's hardly a credible expert, is she?
The reason I included this quote is because I wanted to show the genius of Jason Reitman as a writer. He wrote the Thank You for Smoking screenplay adapted from book with the same title written by Christopher Buckley. Up in the Air was also adapted by Reitman and co-writer Sheldon Turner from the critically acclaimed novel composed by Walter Kim.
Reitman came to the University of Minnesota to talk with a lecture hall full of students and the experience was truly rewarding. He is such a down to earth guy and a filmmaker that is going places. I am currently working on an article about him that will be finished once finals are over.
Ok, back to Up in the Air.
This film revolves around George Clooney's character Ryan Bingham. He travels around the county firing people for companies that cannot handle the tough task themselves. Ryan spends his life on the road; always flying, staying in hotels, and living out of his suitcase. It is easy to say that he is a very independent, self serving person.
Ryan's job is jeopardized when a new employee Natalie, played by the rising star of Anna Kendrick, comes up with an idea to save the company money by eliminating the travel and firing people over the internet through video conferencing. Ryan is not happy about this because he lives to be on the road. His boss makes him take Natalie on one of his "firing" trips to show her the ropes and what this depressing career is really about.
These two form a bond on the road. Natalie soon realizes that this job is no cake walk and definitely not a job you can do by just following the book so to speak. Firing someone drastically changes their lives forever. The tragedy in this film especially shines through while showing people reacting to being fired.* It really is powerful to see people respond to the news no one wants to hear, especially in this recession.
* For some of the dismissals Reitman actually found people who had recently lost their jobs and hired them to reenact or respond to being fired however they wanted. Watching these people get fired felt like really being there. These scenes draw the viewer into the people who have just lost their jobs and even more importantly, Clooney's character Ryan as he deals with this hardship every day.
Ryan also meets a woman named Alex on the road who also travels a lot and is wired the same way he is. Alex is played by the stunning Vera Farmiga (The Departed). She and Ryan really work well together on screen giving the audience a sense of their connection.
The direction and writing by Reitman are top notch.The visuals complemented the storytelling very well. Reitman uses hit shots to clarify character emotion or elaborate on a setting. The opening scene is magnificent as the camera flies over the American landscape from the perspective of an airplane.
Despite all those depressing story lines this movie does a great job at combining comedy and tragedy. Intertwined into this film is plenty of comic relief that will get you to chuckle or crack a smile. Once again, brilliant writing.
This film is the perfect blend of comedy, emotion, and tension. I laughed, smiled, sympathized, and got choked up while watching this movie. This was an fine example of a movie where the audience is not really sure how it was going to end during the movie. The script also did a great job at developing the characters, especially Natalie and Ryan.
The acting was first-rate as well. Of course you can't possibly think it wouldn't be with Clooney leading a star studded cast. Anna Kendrick did a phenomenal job while working so closely with Clooney. They play off each other so wonderfully. Ryan is the old veteran who has seen it all and Natalie is the intelligent college grad looking to get her hands dirty in the workforce. These two characters make this movie go.
Did I forget to mention the cast boasts Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons, and a cameo from Zach Galifianakis. Oh yea, and Henry Rowengartner's mom from Rookie of the Year.
This movie is absolutely saturated with product placement because Ryan is always on the road using hotels, airlines, and car services; so it is justified. But this is a perfect example of how we as consumers can never get away from advertisers...they find us everywhere!
The soundtrack for this film was very good as well. It worked seamlessly with the visuals to heighten the viewing experience.
Overall, Up in the Air warrants all the Oscar buzz. Clooney and company nail their roles and Reitman at the helm of this project nails his. This is an original story for the screen that does a great job with character development, plot development, and mixing comedy into a fairly serious plot. I recommend anyone who is a fan of Reitman or Clooney's work check this movie out because it is some of their best. This movie is scheduled for wide release on Christmas Day. It would be a shame if you didn't check it out.
Seen it? Any thoughts?