Up in the Air

Our reaction to any particular movie has a lot to do with the personal baggage that we carry into the theatre.  “Up in the Air” could not have arrived at a more appropriate time for me and I’m sure for many others.  You see, writing this column is not my job but something I do because I enjoy it.  I have a day job, or rather, had a day job from which I was let go two weeks ago.  Yes, it was a “recession proof” job.  At least that’s what the company had told us months ago.  Therefore seeing this exceptional movie about a man whose job it is to fire people was familiar, cathartic and showed me that I am not alone.  Fortunately the man is played by George Clooney, who has the charm to make such a creature, well, charming.  The film would not work as well as it does with a less charismatic actor in the lead.

“Up in the Air” opens with a sequence of people who one by one react to the news that they have just been fired.  They do not seem like actors although I am sure that they are.  What they say is well written and authentic.  I have felt every single one of the emotions that they express.  The sequence and other reactions from fired employees through out the film are dead on.

Clooney plays corporate hatchet man Ryan Bingham.  Bingham flies around the country firing employees for employers who are too afraid to do it themselves.  Apparently this is a thriving business.  Bingham handles the firings with a combination of compassion and platitudes.  Mostly Bingham likes his job. The work keeps him moving with as little commitment and baggage, literal and emotional, as possible, just the way he likes it.  Bingham travels light with carry on luggage only, most definately a metaphor.  “Moving is living,” is part of his philosophy.  Bingham thrives on recycled airplane air, his preferred traveler status that gets him through lines faster, rental cars, the meals allotted to him by his travel budget and the miles that he earns.  He believes that people are not social but are out to get one another.  He looks down with condescension on his about to be married sister.  He is smug and on top of his game.

Clooney’s co-stars are Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga.  Although not as well known as Clooney they certainly hold their own with him.  Kendrick plays Bingham’s co-worker Natalie Keener, a recent college graduate who wants to streamline the firing process but who first must go on the road with Bingham to learn the ropes.  Natalie tries to present herself as button down corporate but is a naïve 24-year-old in a little over her head.  Along the way Bingham meets Alex Goram (Farmiga) his female, country-hopping, low baggage counter part.  The two women reinforce and challenge Bingham’s life philosophy. Seeing these three characters interact and reveal themselves against the background of “haves” and about to be “have nots” provides the heart of this very interesting, contemplative, funny and introspective film.

Up in the Air, director Jason Bateman,

Paramount Pictures, 109 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on December 15, 2009, in Now on DVD. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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