Up in the Air
You’re tiny, but we’ll still need to take out a lot more if you’re gonna fit in there.

Golden Mug

Adapted Screenplay (Jason Reitman (screenplay), Sheldon Turner (novel))

Best Picture

Theatrical Release Date: 12/11/2009
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Zach Galifianakis

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of flying in the last ten years. Gone are the days when it was glamorous to take a flight, where one would dress up and get excited about the journey itself, let alone the destination.

If you’re going to fly the friendly skies now, it means getting to the airport two hours ahead of time, making sure to have packed any toiletries in little bottles and a separate pouch for the security screening where you need to take off your shoes and hope you’re not subject to a “random” search which will only delay you further. Then on-board the plane, there’s the two inches of free space between your face and the seat in front of you once they’ve leaned back all the way, the screaming baby two rows behind and if you want food, I hope you brought your Visa card.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and just because the average person finds air travel a necessary evil doesn’t mean that there aren’t others who find solace in the routine or enjoy having learned how to best skirt the system. George Clooney plays one such man in director/co-screenwriter Jason Reitman’s film, “Up in the Air”. Based on the novel by Walter Kirn, the film is about the transient lifestyle that Clooney’s character wholly embraces and finds solace within. While many people long to get married, have kids and settle down, his goal is to accrue a certain number of airline miles and therefore elite status among travelers worldwide, all the while enjoying the temporary connections made with others along the way.

Of course, during the film’s runtime his point of view regarding life is going to be challenged. His sister is getting married (Melanie Lynskey), he meets a fellow traveler who just might be the one (Vera Farmiga) and he’s forced to give a fresh out of college co-worker a look at how his industry works (Anna Kendrick).

This is where the film may be tougher for people to embrace, as the reason Clooney is flying around so much is to give people the bad news that they’ve lost their jobs. With the economy in the tank, many firms find it more palatable to hire an outside consultant to do the firing rather than confront their workers themselves. So the film opens with people getting laid off and the film is dotted with sad confrontations between Clooney & Kendrick and people having the worst day possible.

The beauty of Reitman’s direction comes into play here as he found a way to balance such a hard subject, particularly these days, with a welcome dose of comedy. Much of this is due to Clooney’s excellent portrayal, as this is the type of role he plays so well – charming and humorous with a dash of vulnerability. It’s very much ‘George Clooney’ as the general public kind of perceives him to be in real life and so while some may say there isn’t much acting to be done by him, it’s still a very enjoyable performance.

The supporting cast is all up to the task as well. Farmiga and Kendrick apparently have divergent views of what it means to be happy in life and are almost like the angel and devil on Clooney’s shoulders. Jason Bateman isn’t given much to do but capably portrays the semi-slimy boss. Amy Morton and Melanie Lynskey were wonderfully cast as Clooney’s sisters and Danny McBride does fine as the future brother-in-law. Then there’s J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis, who are two of those unfortunate souls getting the pink slip. Simmons gets to give the more dramatic and heart-wrenching side of things while Galifianakis (in a very limited role) adds a much needed set of laughs to the situation at the top of the film.

Adding to the excellent acting and direction is a wonderful adapted screenplay, by Reitman and Sheldon Turner. Figuring out how to keep the film’s tone balances is a tricky task but they pair were up to the task. Scenes highlighting Clooney’s streamlining of airport rules and a wonderfully fun party crashing scene help to break up the standard fly here, fire people, talk about our feelings formula that might have befallen the film without Reitman and Turner’s input.

Simply put, “Up in the Air” is one of year’s best films and one of the few surefire must sees of the holiday season so far, getting a 4.5 out of 5. That half point reduction came from an issue revolving around the film’s resolution which may or may not be so troublesome for most other people but left me feeling a little wanting. That being said, I’d still gladly recommend others to get into theaters to check it out and look forward to watching it again when it eventually hits the DVD market.