Thursday, January 7, 2010

Up in the Air **

Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott
Jim Miller, Zach Galifianakis

Star turns don't come more tailor made than George Clooney's Ryan Bingham in "Up in the Air". Ryan's job has him traveling across the country most of the year in order to layoff employees when their bosses can't do it.
Who else but Clooney, the eternal bachelor, could play a character whose asshole-ish qualities are compensated by undeniable, inescapable charm?
This life spent in airports and hotels has made him avert to any kind of emotional connections with other human beings including his own family.
That is until he meets Alex (Farmiga) a sexy frequent flyer with whom he begins a casual relationship only to have him doubt if his philosophy on bachelorhood is convenient.
He also meets Natalie Keener (Kendrick) an ambitious young woman hired by his company to revolutionize layoffs by going the cyber way. With Natalie Ryan becomes threatened of becoming obsolete, but she too has demons of her own to work with.
With a combination of comedy and drama, "Up in the Air" tries hard to be extremely likable, to the point in which every character becomes essentially a two dimensional representation of different kinds of people.
"I stereotype, it's faster" says Ryan to teach Natalie a lesson in efficiency. Curiously director Jason Reitman does the same to his movie.
While trying to evoke humanity and the day-to-day struggles of people living under a horrifying economy, he makes his characters as cold and detached as the computers Natalie wants to impose on Ryan.
The people in "Up in the Air" are completely mechanical in their behavior, even the people who are supposed to be "real" like Lynskey who plays Ryan's small town sister. The screenplay suggests her warmth and innocence by making her the kind of woman who makes a printout of herself and her fiancé (McBride) to have it photographed all over the country, "like the gnome in that French movie".
All because, you guessed it, she can't afford a real honeymoon and is happy with the photographs.
It's this kind of faux humanity that makes the movie so difficult to believe in. Besides this the movie also has some offensive gender politics; it pretends it's OK with women in charge of their careers but eventually patronizes them to make Ryan shine brighter.
Take Natalie for example, Kendrick plays her with enough vapid naivete to make us like her, but behind her tough facade lies a person so easy to convince that she would give up a life dream to be with a man.
When this comes and bites her in the ass, the movie proves Ryan was right about love sucking so much and people who fall for that trap being disposable.
Then there's Alex, who Farmiga imbues with sexiness and incredible confidence, but who is nothing more than your average maneater come the movie's end. Meaning that in this movie if you're a career woman you're either a bitter, disappointed lover or a soulless nymphomaniac.
Only women from Ryan's hometown have husbands who love them and the possibility of happiness.
"Up in the Air" is condescending towards lifestyle choices that don't fit its idea of living. The problem is that the movie is all appearances and doesn't even have an idea to back up its statements.
If problems only exist when their solution is available, then this movie shouldn't even be an issue.
Beyond its questioning of "loneliness" and relationships lies nothing more than a sleek corporate ad that tries to take you off the fact that they've been telling you all along that no matter what you do, you'll die alone.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Jose you raise even more pertinent points as to why this movie is not good. As I just wrote though I CANNOT understand Kendrick's buzz. The movie is disappointment for me, even Farmiga who I adored left me a little cold. Spot on about the characters being manufactured.

Luke said...

Yowza! Talk about scathing! I guess I didn't quite dig as deeply as you did when seeing this movie (and probably my tendency toward liking Vera Farmiga's work made me biased), but I certainly didn't pick up on all the gender politics that were apparently at work. Nonetheless, I can't help but say that I truly enjoyed a lot of the banter. And I'm a big fan of banter. Excellent points, though.

Michael Parsons said...

Wow. Thinking about this movie in a whole new light now. I was all caught up in buzz that I forgot to watch it I guess. But when you are right, you are right.