Review of "Up in the Air" (2009)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Release Date: December 4, 2009
Directed By: Jason Reitman
Run Time: 109 min.
Starring: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Vera Farmiga
Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a contractor whom employers hire to lay off their workers when they don't have the guts to do it themselves. As a so-called "corporate downsizing expert", he's always traveling, enjoying the best of accommodations as a result of his near 10 million frequent flier miles. While his itinerant lifestyle prevents him from having any kind of a personal life, Bingham sees this as one of his job's biggest perks. He cherishes life on the road as well as the absence of drama and chaos that accompany real-life relationships.
The dilemma at the center of "Up in the Air" begins when Ryan Bingham's boss (Jason Bateman) calls in an efficiency expert by the name of Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). The young woman is looking to turn the process of firing people into an automated one, done remotely via webcams. If her initiative is successful, Ryan will be pulled off the road.
Furious at the prospect, Bingham convinces his boss to let him take Natalie on a few trips so that she can learn what it's really like to really fire someone. The two hardly connect, and the rigid character of Keener does her best to avoid Ryan, who possesses all the gull and fortitude she so obviously lacks. Throughout their trip, the experienced contractor watches smugly as this no-nonsense career professional sits behind a computer and tells the person in the other room that they've just lost their job. During these sessions the usually poised Natalie struggles to maintain a straight face as she's visibly uncomfortable having to deliver such devastating news.
During these travels Bingham meets an interesting woman named Alex (Vera Farmiga) in a hotel bar. Impressed to find someone who travels as much as he does, Ryan is charmed by her witty sense of humor and the two end up spending the night together. Both workaholics voice a desire to see each other again, but with no strings attached. They continue to meet up whenever their schedules allow. In their movie review, The Detroit News contends that Farmiga "offers Clooney his best onscreen chemistry of the decade", adding that "the two are like tennis partners batting banter back and forth across the screen, their eyes awash all the while with attraction."
It's with the introduction of Alex that "Up in the Air" takes off towards a climax. After years of staying "happily airborne", Ryan finds himself ready to make a real connection with someone. However, as karma might have it, his desired partner is in a predicament of her own. As a result of this complicated love situation Ryan Bingham starts to evaluate his life as a whole as well as the decisions he's made.
Bottom Line: 2.5 out of 5 stars. "Up in the Air" delivers content that is dry and repetitive. At the same time there's too much chit chat and banter between the characters of Clooney and Kendrick, to the point that I got a headache halfway through the movie. A review by Filmfodder explains that Kendrick "often overshoots her goal, turning Natalie into a petulant brat instead of the corporate hotfoot needed to shake Ryan out of his comfort zone." Indeed this is exactly how she comes across in her role; rigid, with no color to her personality. Always the charmer, Clooney has no problem lighting up the screen as Ryan Bingham. It's fair to say he single handedly keeps the movie afloat throughout its duration. However good movies rarely subsist on one good character and such is the case here. The storyline also seems underdeveloped.