Up in the Air
Opens tomorrow. You must go see. Up in the Air has scored a 92% rating among Top Critics on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s considered a major contender during awards season, and this is George Clooney’s best performance.
I screened it with a theatre full of journalists at TIFF. They were guffawing in their seats, charmed by Anna Kendrick, delighted by her chemistry with Clooney, and very moved during the moments when it counted. I loved this film. It’s my favourite so far of the year, resonating personally on so many levels, starting of course with the most superficial.
On the surface, Up in the Air is about business travelling. I business travel a lot. 2009 to date it’s been 20 trips. Less than last year which was 23 trips. The year before was even more at 25 trips. This doesn’t count personal trips and holidays. So on average I’m on a plane every other week. When you fly that often you fall into a groove. It’s a precise, exact science. And since I’m neurotic to begin with, my sh-t has to be just so. But most business travellers, even though they’ll never admit it, are similar in their approach. There is a routine. It is efficient. Efficiency is key. And Jason Reitman captures this brilliantly. If you are a business traveller, these small details will have you nodding your head. If you are not a full time traveller, perhaps these small details will help you travel more efficiently. Like, I can’t understand why people insist on keeping their belts on, and refuse to remove ALL THE CHANGE from their pockets even though they’ve been asked to at least 3 times before security screening. Listening skills shut down at the airport – why is that?
Anyway, George’s character Ryan Bingham has no attachments. He loves it this way. He loves it in the air. His most significant relationship is the one he has with his airline membership club, hoping to earn enough points to join an elite frequent flier secret society with lifelong benefits.
Again, this is my language. I am obsessed with my points. I’m not stingy with them like he is but points mean access, and access means time savings. Access allows me to arrive at the airport at the last possible minute, rush through the fast lane, and board before everyone else. And my luggage comes out first. Which means I’m in the car, heading to the hotel, and able to get online sooner rather than later.
Half an hour here and there may not mean much to some, but when you operate online, and homewrecking and catfighting occurs frequently, every minute matters. Content must be constant. A five hour plane right with an hour wait time tagged on the top and bottom is a major buzzkill. Also, I like the upgrade certificates.
But as mentioned earlier, this is just the background. And while Ryan’s life is steeped in superficiality and business travel efficiency, ironically it is business efficiency that threatens to derail his plans. He is a corporate firing freelancer, brought in to terminate with practised, professional detachment. But the economy is dying, robots are cheaper, the impersonal approach saves money, and his impersonal approach is now too expensive, just when he’s beginning to question whether or not flying is enough.
Would you fight irrelevance if doing so means confirming that nothing about your life was relevant in the first place? Don’t be afraid. This is existentialism in tangible form without dumbing it down to the MiniVan. And that is Reitman’s great gift – his films are accessible but not stupid, with a tone that, in the deeper social context, can resonate with the majority at no cost to creative integrity.
This is not a heavy handed movie. It doesn’t tell you how to feel or when to cry or when to be uplifted, if at all. You will not exit the theatre feeling exhausted from emotion. There is no Hollywood swell and a fist pump to follow. Up in the Air is smarter than that without trying to make you feel not smart enough. In the end, to me anyway, it’s about the value of our connections, and the fallacies we place on them, and whether or not, if we have the capacity to change, it would make us any happier.
Look forward to your comments after. We’ll do a chat room.
Here are Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga at the LA premiere on Monday. As you know, Kendrick is my girl but that dress was a bad choice. She was outplayed by Vera in their whites.
Photos from Wenn.com