Up In The Air is a terrific film. It?s sparkling. It?s sad. It?s deeply engaging and painfully insightful.
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who fires people for a living. He spends 300-odd days a year on the road but this isn?t a problem. Bingham has turned air travel into high art. He?s happy to call a soulless airport hotel home. But Ryan?s comfortably numb life gets a jolt when he is asked to take a younger colleague on his road show. And he enters a relationship with a woman who seems as happy as him to keep it no-strings-attached. She says: think of me as you with a vagina. But that not as easy as it seems. Ryan discovers that family and relationships are a little more than mere baggage.
Working from a novel by Walter Kirn, director Jason Reitman creates a film that is so poignant and rich, that you actually find yourself sympathizing with Bingham, a man who is a corporate downsizer and gives motivational talks on how to avoid commitment.
Reitman doesn?t sugar-coat the humiliation and sadness of being fired. What Bingham does is brutal and nasty.
At one point, his colleague, played terrifically by Anna Kendrick, eagerly asks: For the love of God, can I fire the next one please! But Reitman expertly and effortlessly mines this material for laughs and emotions that never veer into melodrama or sentimentality.
The centerpiece of the film is of course Clooney?s heart-wrenching performance. Here is a global superstar working his legendary charm. But at the same time, he isn?t afraid of being and looking human, and more than a little frayed at the edges.
Up In The Air will devastate you even as it makes you laugh. If you?re going to see one film this weekend, make it Up In The Air.