Filmspotting: writer/director Jason Reitman's latest is a the kind of polished and sophisticated, yet highly accessible film that almost anyone can enjoy -- pretentious film geeks and hormonal Twilight fans alike. If you hated Juno (I didn't, but I can understand why you might), which Reitman also directed, no worries: this is nothing like that.
Up in the Air stars George Clooney, who finished 2009 on a serious hot streak. You've got the final episode of ER in March, Fantastic Mr. Fox in November, and this in late December. (We'll give Mr. Clooney a pass on The Men Who Stare at Goats. It's not his fault the script was awful.) He plays Ryan Bingham, a travel-addicted consultant whose job it is to visit different companies in different cities and let you down lightly as he fires you.
Sounds like a job that only a total asshat would take, I know. And Clooney sells his character's cynical, isolated lifestyle. In planes and in life, he carries very little baggage.
But as the film progresses, you begin to understand that years of experience and millions of frequent flyer miles into his career, Bingham has developed a graceful manner in handling the newly jobless. The least he can do, he believes, is to fire people in person, which seems old-fashioned and inefficient to the consulting firm newcomer, Anna Kendrick (Natalie Keener, who Edward Cullen fangirls will recognize as Jessica from the Twilight film series).
Her revolutionary idea -- which draws instant skepticism from Bingham -- is to ground all the consultants and complete all firings via webcam. Brilliant idea, until you consider the inhumanity of being cast out of your workplace of however-many-years by a random talking head who's reciting lines from a script. Nevertheless, her idea strikes a chord with management, and we begin to despair at how simultaneously small and impersonal the internet is making the world.
If you've seen the trailer, you're also aware of the phallic banter and no-strings romance between Bingham and a fellow regular traveler (Vera Farmiga). That relationship in itself is almost a second, separate story from the main plot. Toward the end, though, you will understand why Farmiga's role is crucial to the movie. Let's just say that a realization crushes Bingham's comfortable loner's worldview.
You want my advice? See Up in the Air. See it to laugh. See it to fume. See it to cry. For God's sake, see it on the big screen. It may not be the best film of the year, but I would argue that it's the easiest to enjoy. Even more so than -- GASP -- Avatar!