Up in the Air (R)

Comedy 109 December 23, 2009
By Robert Wilonsky
For his third feature, Jason Reitman very loosely adapts Walter Kirn's 2001 novel about Ryan Bingham, who, when he’s not busy traversing the flyover states delivering pink slips, delivers motivational speeches in hotel ballrooms about emptying out one's metaphoric backpack. "How much does your life weigh?" Ryan, played by George Clooney, asks, before ticking off all the "stuff" (including family) that turns one's life into a parade of "negotiations, arguments, secrets, compromises." For the better part of two hours, we're passengers stuck next to Ryan on a plane as he narrates his life story. "All the things you probably hate about traveling," Ryan says in voiceover, "are warm reminders I am home." And so begins his tale, in which contemporary corporate woe is commingled with old-fashioned movie-star romance is laced with sincerity and smarts till it adds up to something pretty special. Then the women board: Alex (Vera Farmiga), with whom Ryan shares a one-nighter that turns into a connecting-flight love affair; Natalie (Anna Kendrick), the cocky Cornell grad offering Ryan's boss a new way to fire—over the Internet; and Ryan's sister (Melanie Lynskey), whose pending wedding brings with it the kind of baggage that cannot be checked at the counter. Reitman has found his voice—somewhere between the satirist he aspired to be with Thank You for Smoking and the humanist on display in Juno. Up in the Air is playful and warm—it feels real, and Clooney has never been more human.
Jason Reitman George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride, Zach Galifianakis Walter Kirn, Jason Reitman Daniel Dubiecki, Jeffrey Clifford, Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman Paramount Pictures


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