06 December 2009

Review: "Up In The Air"

In 2001 I had graduated early from high school and I was working full-time before starting university in the fall. I was let go at the beginning of July. During that time I bought a new book every week. One of those books was Up In The Air, by Walter Kirn. I really enjoyed the book, so much so that I read his previous novel, Thumbsucker. That novel was made into a 2005 film, and I was mostly disappointed by the adaptation. Jason Reitman has only made two previous films, Thank You For Smoking and Juno, which were both critically lauded. I was excited from the start for his adaptation of Up In The Air, even if I was a bit apprehensive of George Clooney taking on the role of Ryan Bingham. I had reservations because I think that George Clooney is too old to be playing a 35 year old man, and aging the character too much would be disastrous. From its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in early September, to its massively hyped premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Up In The Air has been garnering accolades for its three stars (Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick) and for director Jason Reitman (who co-wrote the screenplay). The studio could have over-hyped the film in the three months leading up its limited release, but there was so much faith in the product that there was very little news until a week before it entered theatres (though only in limited release until Christmas Day). There was not a single film I was more eager to see this fall, and I was more impressed by the film than I had ever expected.

Ryan Bingham (Clooney) works for a company that sends him flying back and forth across the country to fire employees at other companies. He travels almost 300 days of the year and chooses not to have a real home, real friends, or any real relationships. An eager new employee, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) has a fresh perspective and has grown up with technology. She has convinced the company that they no longer need to waste funds sending so many employees across the country firing people face-to-face when it can be done using the Internet. Ryan is unconvinced and takes Natalie on a cross-country tour showing her that the human element is a necessity. Natalie is shocked by Ryan's disconnectedness, and the two eventually learn to appreciate and understand each other. When Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), who spends weeks and months away from home, his views begin to change. The three characters, when together on screen, work so effortlessly that you cannot help but feel attached to these characters and their futures.

Up In The Air is the best film that I have seen this year. It is more perfectly paced than A Serious Man (which is itself an amazing film) and it has more real human emotion than Precious. It will win a vast number of awards during the Oscar season. The National Board of Review named it the best film of the year, with Clooney and Kendrick taking the Best Actor and Supporting Actress awards, respectively. The film has a lot of humour (with Zach Galifinakis and J.K. Simmons in great supporting roles), but the real heart of the film is how Ryan is affected by Natalie and Alex. This is not George Clooney's film, he and his character would have fallen flat were it not for the amazing performances by his two female co-stars.

My rating: 4 (or 5, even 6) stars out of 4.

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