BAD NEWS BEARERS

“Up in the Air” literally starts on a high, with a fly opening credits involving snapshots from a plane. And then, in the form of a well suited George Clooney, we meet the film’s protagonist. His name is Ryan Bingham and his job is to fly over all over the country and do the firing for bosses with no balls to do them. It’s a job that takes finesse and experience for he deals with people at their vulnerable state.

So how does one become good in bearing bad news? Well, Bingham has adapted a philosophy of human disconnect. He is barely in one place to develop a relationship. He flies so much that he calls the stratosphere his home. Sky is literally his limit. But don’t worry, between flight connections, he finds flirt connections with a fellow cloud hopper (Vera Farmiga) for some adult playtime. (Cue the nudge-nudge, wink-wink).

Bingham’s lifestyle however hits a turbulence at the event of company shake-up. As proposed by Natalie Keener, an assertive Cornell grad, the company now plans to fire people via video teleconference. It’s way cheaper than flying a man over to do the dirty deed. Bingham thinks it’s a bad idea. (And I agree – it’s cowardly and impersonal). This method might be efficient but dismisses the dignity of the job.

The movie’s employment of unemployment is indeed timely, but it is seen from a pensive, elite standpoint. None of the major characters are fired, plus Bingham’s company happily profits from the miserable economy. While the movie features the fallen victims of the firing squad, their despair and depression are never really displayed in depth. Furthermore, as contrasts, they make our well-off characters less sympathetic.

Despite this, “Up in the Air” flies on style with its comic timing and wit. Clooney comfortably dons Bingham like a pair of cushy shoes. He fits the part and runs with it. I really hate the hassle and hustle at the airport, but Clooney suavely gives us the illusion that flying is indeed fly. Another fitting performer is Anna Kendrick in the role of Keener. I’ve seen Kendrick shoot torrential lines in “Rocket Science” and she holds the same fire in this movie. She credibly plays an ambitious know-it-all who obviously doesn’t … know it all. It’s a sophisticated part that could’ve been disastrous had it been offered to a more popular but daft “actress.”

I do love the movie. The first hour was masterful. The characters are engaging. The dialogue is music. And it even manages to schill out insightful advice to enrich our wisdom. But what goes up must come down and the “come down” happens on the second hour. Nothing disastrous, but things become predictable as certain beliefs are eventually challenged. I don’t mind Bingham being grounded, but he almost takes a nosedive for the sake of dramatic effect. I badly wanted to be uplifted, but the movie seems more inclined to decline or dig deep.

Grade: A-

CAST
George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Tamala Jones, and Chris Lowell
Based on the novel by
Walter Kirn
Written by
Sheldon Turner
Jason Reitman
Directed by
Jason Reitman
Rated R for language and sexual content.
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