Monday, January 11, 2010

Up In The Air

Middle-aged people in extra-marital affairs must be the zeitgeist in Hollywood this season.

Jason Reitman's latest picture UP IN THE AIR is a mirror held up to a moral vacuum in 21st century American society and as such it's unsettling and more than a little depressing.

There's a lot of Oscar buzz around this film and I must say I infinitely preferred it to the cloying and self-consciously clever JUNO. This is a great cinematic adaptation of a novel, unabashedly posing hard questions and offering no easy answers. The film is anchored by a trio of extraordinarily fine performances.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who has made a life making the best of a bad job: firing people on behalf of bosses who lack the balls to do their own dirty work. He swirls through concrete airports and beige hotel rooms, leaving voided lives in his wake as he racks up frequent flier miles. The distance he's covered in his travels is the only value he holds sacred. He keeps his human connections to a minimum: movement maintains distance.

He's framed by two women: a corporate newbie (played with wonderfully intensity by Anna Kendrick) who wants to ground everybody and fire people online and his lover, fellow frequent flier Alex Gordon ( a cooly elegant Vera Farmiga ) a woman whose life is as compartmentalized as the backpack Ryan talks about in his corporate seminars.

It's a rare American film that manages to be this thought-provoking and nuanced. I lay awake for a long time last night thinking about those people's lives. Completely worth seeing.