Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Up In The Air - Dir. Jason Reitman

In a world where everybody is looking to hook up and ‘not die alone’, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his flyaway fling Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) are the exception to this life-long rule. However when Bingham must show the young and naive Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) how his no-strings philosophy on life has improved his relationship with his job at CTC – we hire, you fire – he begins a journey which takes him - the man who has flown endlessly almost everywhere - into unknown airspace. Oh and then there’s the business of reaching a select number of air-miles... Jason Reitman’s (Thank You For Not Smoking, Juno) ‘Up In The Air’ takes a long-hard look at a life which thrives on loneliness and how this affects the relationships around him. It’s mildly amusing, touching at times, and a definite Awards contender thanks to the fantastic performances from the three main lead characters.

Ryan Bingham has worked for years at CTC, a company which makes its money straight from the mouth of corporate greed. When a company management official hasn’t got the spine to release an employee, they draft in CTC who send over somebody that can. But they do simply more than tell the employee that they have ten minutes to vacate the property, they attempt to ferry them across to a new avenue in the most fragile moment of their lives. (Beautifully appropriate, considering the recent devastating economic recession throughout the world and the rise in unemployment). Bingham lives for, and in, the air. He travels city-to-city firing employees while also hoping to give them a nudge down the right path. The only human connection he develops is with Alex, a fellow flight-hopper, who is the female equivalent of Bingham. She’s strong, sexual woman who has plenty of air-miles. Yet, his idyllic life is put under the microscope when he must show the young, vivacious and ruthless CTC member Natalie Keener how to live your life constantly on the move. Curiously, and with a hint of pity Natalie asks Bingham as they walk through to the airport security station; “Don’t you ever get lonely?” To which he replies, “Lonely? I’m surrounded by people everywhere I go.”

George Clooney’s central performance as Ryan Bingham, the man who lives his life avoiding commitment as a philosophy, is simply sublime. He lives his life on a schedule, just like the airlines he flies with, and this schedule leaves no time for others. Bingham is a man who is afraid of commitment and by flying for almost three-hundred and twenty days every year this allows himself to leave as little time as possible for social interaction. Social interaction, friendships, mortgages and even marriage are just another pointless blockade for this man who believes that the best way to live the ride of life itself is by carrying around an empty backpack – as this cannot weigh you down. Following Clooney, both Anna Kendrick (Natalie) and Vera Farmiga (Alex) both give equally engrossing performances as the two strongest female influences in this lonely high flyer’s life. Alex is Ryan’s match and the closest thing he has to a potential ‘love-interest’ – not that he believes in the notion of love. While Natalie becomes Bingham’s closest connection to humanity, despite putting up a strong front, she is built like the majority of other human beings; with a soft, sticky, fragile centre.

Coupled with the great on-screen performances, Reitman also hits the right note with both his direction and his adapted screenplay (which he began writing in 2002) of Walter Kirn’s original novel. Reitman employs the combination quick cuts and close-up shots of the menial aspects of Bingham’s life, such as the movement from his apartment to the check-in desk at the airport. These activities may be appreciated by those that have never flown before, or have only done so a few times before, but for a man that has clocked up 350,000 air-miles in the previous year; they are nothing but a minor inconvenience to a man who loathes an establishment without a queue for priority members. While the adapted screenplay script provides a concentrated balance of amusing comedic moments, and clever, entertaining drama which in turn creates a very enjoyable film. Quirky, funny, emotional, and thought-provoking dramas certainly seem to be Jason Reitman’s forte at this moment in time.
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