George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Being fired isn't funny, but Up in the Air manages to spin a witty tale about the guy who's firing you! George Clooney plays a professional corporate downsizer who's almost constantly on cross-country flights, accumulating frequent-traveler rewards...until his perks are suddenly revoked and he has to rethink a few things. Boasting solid performances, this is a movie of the moment, but might be too close to home for some viewers.

The Bigger Picture: Anyone who has had to travel by air in recent years will relate to the skills that Ryan Bingham (Clooney) has developed to make life easier. Travel light, know how to fold, slip-off shoes, profile which people in front of you are likely to take longer, know the different perks of each individual car-rental company. It's hard to look cool while being frisked by security, yet he does it.

Relatively speaking, it's actually small potatoes compared to the job he has to do at the destination—firing employees whose bosses are too afraid to do it themselves, and have therefore outsourced the job. Ryan, who also performs motivational speaking gigs where he advises people to have few attachments and possessions, knows what to say, and when to say it. (Basically Fight Club with a happy face.)

Meanwhile, he dreams of becoming only the seventh person in America to attain 10 million frequent flier miles. And he seems to have met his perfect match in the equally travel-savvy Alex (Vera Farmiga); they periodically reroute their schedules to enable airport booty calls, and all is right with the world, at least for Ryan. The misery of the current economy keeps him in boffo business.

Until, that is, a young would-be hotshot named Natalie (Anna Kendrick) gets a job at his company by suggesting that much money could be saved if the firings were done over Internet video-conferencing, rather than in person. Furious that this upstart seems to be missing the finer points of in-person psychology, Ryan takes her with him on what may be one last cross-country trip, to show her what it is they really do.

Anyone familiar with the work of director Jason Reitman will notice several hallmarks developing: Up in the Air in many ways is Thank You For Smoking (slick corporate protagonist in an abhorrent line of work whom you can't help liking anyway) meets Juno (confused protagonist learns to appreciate the simple things as cloying emo music plays). Actors from both pop up here again, among them Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, and Sam Elliott.

And like its predecessors, the movie truly scores when it every-so-often hits on some strong emotional truths—particularly on-point is a scene in which Natalie lays out the exact checklist of qualities she wants in a man, while Alex tells her what really will and will not matter to her in about ten years.

But don't be scared away by that: It's still a damn funny movie.

And while it may seem to be following a standard romantic comedy template, the flight path gets redirected in ways you might not expect.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The music choices kinda suck. In addition to the aforementioned emo-indie junk, things kick off with an abrasive soul cover of "This Land Is Your Land" that's so annoying it may put you in an unfortunately bad mood off the bat.


There's so much else to see, too—have a look in our Totally New Releases gallery!

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share