Movie Review: Up in the Air
My Christmas Day double-header of movies began with the multiple Oscar contender, Up in the Air. The movie is certainly not a hard sell for Oscar voters, and general audiences should have no problem latching onto it as well. The film features a hot director just hitting the prime of his career, one of the biggest movie stars in the business, and a subject matter and theme that should resonate within the nation’s current economic climate.
After months of anticipation, however, I left the cinema a bit disappointed. Given the subject matter, the film had so much potential to deliver a powerful message and make an impact on its viewers. It failed to fully realize this potential. Although still a very good movie, it seemed to rely on the premise itself to make this impact without really putting forth any extra effort to create that connection with the viewers.
George Clooney stars as what is essentially a firer for hire. He flies all over the country, for more than 300 days a year, to fire employees for bosses that don’t have to brass to do it themselves. He is comfortable in the air, has no commitments or other obligations, and has his routine down pat. His world is turned upside down when the company he works for hires a recent college grad (Anna Kendrick) who brings a more modern system for this business of laying off. This system features the use of web chats to fire the employees and no longer requires the employees to travel from city to city to do its business. In addition, he is forced to re-evaluate his entire commitment-free life philosophy when he falls for a woman (Vera Farmiga) with a similar lifestyle.
There has been a lot of buzz around Kendrick’s performance in this film, but she didn’t really impress me. Her performance seemed to lack the range that the role required. I never fully bought into her as a fierce business woman with the potential to revolutionize an entire industry and she never seemed completely comfortable in front of the camera.
That might have something to do with the fact that she was working alongside the master of charisma, George Clooney. Playing his usual suave, smooth talking character, he has never been better than he is here. Calm, relaxed, and convincing in every scene, it is entirely believable that Clooney has the power to relax even a person who has just lost their job. I mean, how many middle aged white men can still look cool and collected in such a potentially awkward situation as dancing and singing along to “Bust a Move?” One. George Clooney. That’s it.
Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank you for Smoking) seems to be hitting his stride as a filmmaker, but I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet. He uses a bevy of techniques in this movie, and the movie seems to jostle from the pure indie fare to more mainstream cinema. He uses some quick editing that is obviously supposed to speed up the fairly long intro to Clooney’s character and his career, but it still feels a bit too long. There is also a sweeping, fading wedding montage that feels very similar to the one seen in last year’s Rachel Getting Married.
These scenes are small hiccups from an otherwise smooth production with a sharp, witty script. As cleverly written as it is, it seems too intent on avoiding cliches and is still fairly predictable.
While watching the movie, I was waiting to feel something powerful but that feeling never arrived. Up in the Air is an entertaining film, but I can only wish that it is the film that many are hailing as the best of the year.