Up in the Air, based on the novel of the same name by Walter Kirn, is director Jason Reitman’s 2009 follow-up to his 2007 breakout film Juno.
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a veteran employee of a corporate downsizing company. Bingham flies from city to city, firing corporate employees while simultaneously encouraging them to take their termination as a gift, and to follow their dreams. Bingham contends that his company provides a human element to corporate downsizing, and that this experience even improves peoples’ lives. Additionally, Bingham conducts motivational speeches encouraging his audience to live life with a minimum of attachments, both material and emotional.
Bingham meets Alex Goran (played by Vera Farmiga), another corporate traveler, with whom he begins an ideal (for him), casual relationship, meeting up with Alex whenever their paths cross. Soon, however, Bingham is called back to company headquarters where he meets Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick), a new employee just out of school, who introduces a plan to cut company costs by firing people via videoconferencing. Alex and Natalie will come to have a profound effect on Bingham.
I approached this movie with some initial skepticism, expecting a light romantic comedy. I mean, it’s George Clooney! And just look at the DVD cover, with Clooney and Farmiga smiling at each other over some wine. This movie looked like it had been released many, many times before, and more than once starring Clooney. But reviewers I trust really liked it, so I hoped I would too, and I did. I really did.
This is an exceptional film, a moving examination of life and “living.” Clooney perfectly depicts Bingham’s easy-going charm that nevertheless betrays vulnerability and insecurity--subtly at first, but then more clearly. Farmiga and Kendrick are both winning as Bingham’s love interest and sidekick, respectively. This story has been told before, many times, but it is told expertly here, with some wrinkles I did not expect. I strongly encourage anyone to check out this DVD or the book from our library.
Our guest reviewer, Alex Goodman, has worked for LFPL for nine years, and for the past three at the Middletown branch. He has been a film buff for much longer than that.