There is a lot of Oscar buzz about the latest George Clooney vehicle, “Up In The Air”. With Clooney at his best (basically playing character very much like himself), this movie isn’t exactly what I would consider to be an Oscar contender, but it is definitely quality entertainment.
Ryan Bingham is an ax man for a company that basically keeps him on the road 325 days out of the year. He lives his life out of a suitcase and in hotels. And he seemingly enjoys it. Why shouldn’t he when all he has at his home in Omaha is a sterile white apartment with no family or no pets. It’s a sad situation at home. But on the road, Bingham is a warrior. He is approaching 10 million frequent flier miles and has a gold card for everything. He’s a man on the move and he likes it that way.
One day, his boss (played by an excellent Jason Bateman) tells him that the company is going to downsize their travel and everyone will do their job from a cubicle using a computer terminal. This idea was presented to the company by a hard-nosed early 20-something played by Anna Kendrick (who SHOULD win an Oscar for her performance). Of course, Bingham argues his position on why the company should NOT become a “Youtube” firing squad and he & Kendrick’s character, Natalie, go out on the road.
I could get into all the little things about this movie that I liked, but truthfully, the magic of the film are the moments that Cooney & Kendrick spend time on the road together. There is also a love interest (played by the very sexy & mature Vera Farmiga) for Bingham, but that really isn’t the heart of the film. The heart beats most when Kendrick is on camera and for 45 minutes or so, this movie is all hers. She’s stuffy and pent-up in all the right ways and mid-way through the movie, she gets her star turn in what has got to be one of the best scenes this year.
Needless to say, the movie really isn’t like the book at all. Written by Walter Kirn, the book plays Bingham up as more of a obsessive type. His character is smitten with the idea of getting his miles and the process of travel. In this film, Cooney has a few of those qualities, but the director really lets him breathe a little more life into what could have been a very self-indulgent character. I’m not saying that it’s Clooney’s best role, but it certainly fits him just fine.
This is quality holiday filmmaking at it’s best and Jason Reitman gives it just the right touch of melodrama and melancholy without getting to heavy-handed. In the end, it’s not all tied up in a perfect little package, but it doesn’t really matter. This movie is a showcase for all the actors involved. The story is secondary. And if you like the actors (which I really, really did!), you’ll love the film.
Overall Rating: A-