Sunday, January 24, 2010

Up in the Air (2009)

Up in the Air is a story for the times. The close-up interviews of people talking about losing their jobs (these are at the beginning and end of the film) bring home the jarring effects of unemployment and job loss -- more than any newspaper article can do.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, who travels around the country laying people off and who is very satisfied with his no-strings-attached lifestyle.

Clooney captures the attitude really well, in his monologues about travel and during the seminar scenes on "What's in Your Backpack?"

His perspective on relationships gets more complicated when he meets Alex, who is played by Vera Farmiga and who is ostensibly as detached from relationships as Clooney. The third main character -- Natalie -- is a new hire at Clooney's company who's determined to put the firing process online. Natalie is played by Anna Kendrick (who is brilliant) and her outlook (yes on relationships, yet no on human contact) is a really good foil to Clooney's.

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I am generally a Clooney fan; he won me over with the first Ocean's Eleven and ever since then his suavity (?) gives me a chuckle. I also like that he's politically engaged but does not seem quite as self-righteous as some of the Hollywood stars (I'm thinking here of Brad Pitt, Tim Robbins and perhaps also DiCaprio).

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Clooney's character is determined to collect 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines. I really like this subplot because of the way that his motive is completely unclear. He does not want the material rewards (he actually lives a pretty spartan lifestyle), nor is he looking to an early retirement. He's not showing off for anyone (although he does come around to connecting with his siblings, which is a great part of the movie).

He just wants to attain the goal. This storyline made me think about the goals that we set for ourselves and the reasons we do so: do all of us have things we're striving for without knowing just why?

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