Monday 19 October 2009

Review: Up in the air

Year: 2009
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner
Starring: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga

Plot Synopsis is here

Up in the air is the second film I've seen at the London Film Festival and after a couple of drinks with the people I was with, I found myself at the station trying to make sure I get on the right train. However, I needed to go to the loo. 10 minutes later my stupid bladder and idiotic brain placed me on the wrong train. After a brief text conversation to my girlfriend and a trip to tescos, I managed to get a lift back so I could write this review. The point of this meaningless story is the fact that despite my film geekiness and sudden lack of direction, I'm lucky to have someone like my girlfriend that may be able to give me a lift. An emotional connection, one that if I didn't have I'd have to spend a crap load of money having to get back to my warm bedroom. What's it got to do with Up in the air? Well that's what it's all about!

Up in the air is about emotional bonds and their frailties. We take them for granted constantly but without them, we can become trapped, isolated and disconnected. With this said however, some find this confronting. I mean people aren't the greatest company are they? And George Clooney's character Ryan has constructed a lifestyle that not only keeps him constantly moving, but one that allows him to shun all the little distractions and baggage that we hold dear.

He is a man who is hired to fire people because bosses haven't got the guts to do the dirty work. This is something he's turned into an artform. His lifestyle is soon threatened by a spunky young 23 year old named Natalie (Kendrick), whose realised that all this traveling across the country in order to fire people is a lot of money and video casting is a far more cost effective. Natalie becomes a stone in Ryan's shoe and very soon Ryan starts to stumble into all those little distractions that he avoided so well.

Up in the air is fantastically cast, subtly directed and profoundly funny. It's also a mainstream film that has the balls to observe the terrible circumstances that we have found ourselves. The film is littered with scenes of people losing their jobs, and while some moments are hilariously awkward, many carry a quiet poignancy as the film ups the ante. Reitman's film is an indictment to everything that happened to America is the last two years. A viewer came out of the film and stated that the pick picks easy targets, however if any one out there can name five recent fictional American movies that are making such on point criticisms on the American way of living right, I'd love to hear them.

Unlike so many other directors out there who are creating simplistic films about fantastic escapism, Reitman concentrates on the various aspects of American life that are truly being affected. Juno was a gentle look at the very real situation of children having children. Up in the air is a film about losing our humanity within the corporate world. Yes, I've summed it up in laymans terms, but Reitman's film is one of the only films out there so is willing to address the distress.

Seriousness aside, this film is the perfect foil for it's cast. The themes are heavy, but they are carefully juggled by the superb Clooney, who hasn't been this smooth since Out of Sight. Not only a true movie star but a daring actor who is willing expose himself and deconstruct his star persona. His patchy box office numbers have often been made up by challenging subject matter and of course a smooth performance, here is no different. Up in the air may not target the demographic that the studios want but it's a sublime turn certainly gives the film the prestige it deserves. Here, he's sly, cocksure and never misses a beat. Even Danny Ocean would be sweating in his boots in front of Ryan Bingham. It's also welcoming to see the gorgeous Vera Farmiga in a bouncy yet complicated role as Alex, Ryan's sex buddy. For an actress whose constantly noted for her "strung out" performances (See the departed, Joshua, Orphan etc), Farmiga matches Clooney in cracking sexuality beat for beat. It a role that turns you on, not because of her looks but her ability to turn a phase as well as her partner The chemistry is beyond sizzling.

Three cheers must also go out to the other strong female display in the film, coming in the form of Anna Kendrick, whose well rounded yet so wonderfully naive could have been so easily a retreaded "voice of reason" act that could have dulled the sharp script with it's wry dialogue and cutting observations.

Reitman's direction is as confident as his fully realized screenplay, shooting as matter of fact as possible, with no wasteful shots, needless clever asides or flabby scenes. Even in the face of cliche, Reitman laughs in the face of going down a hackneyed route, converting commonplace moments, and subverting scenes that could have easily sink the film, particularly in the later half of the film.

Up in the air is sharp and stylish film making with a maturing director at the helm, and a note perfect cast (I haven't even mentioned the solid supporting turns of Jason Bateman et all.). It's a film that is as joyfully amusing as it is melancholy. Bittersweet but not without it a glimmer of hope, Up in the air is a film that I hope to see win awards next year.

Hear more talk about this movie at Geekplanetonline