Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Up in the Air

2009. Dir: Jason Reitman. Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman and Amy Morton. ●●●●●

Jason Reitman has a bizarre talent of hitting the zeitgeist. In his last film - Juno - it was largely due to the up-to-the-minute hipster dialogue from Diablo Cody. But in his masterful follow-up we are drawn to the timeliness of the storytelling, and it's connection to the current financial crisis. Reitman is well aware of this, using brief interviews with people who have recently been made redundant, that insight into real lives works well to underline how dramatic and devastating losing your job can be.

Up in the Air cannot be so easily defined. It is a movie about recession and joblessness. The main character Ryan Bingham (expertly played by George Clooney) may work for a company that provide redundancy outsourcing, a firer-for-hire if you will, but it's also about resistance and acceptance of change.

Bingham, in his own way, is wholely resistant to change. He lives his life as detached as possible, spending over two thirds of the year travelling and quietly toting up his air miles (as he aims to achieve a high water mark). During the film he encounters three women who challange his lifestyle in different ways; Anna Kendrick who aims to shake up the company procedure, fellow traveller Vera Farmiga who offers Bingham a glimpse of happiness and sister Amy Morton whose no-nonsense cynicism hits to Bingham's core. It is through the developement of these relationships that Bingham begins to understand his place and his future.

For me the film worked as a quality piece of cinema - I wasn't in tears at the end or desperately wanting to be part of the action - but in a detached way I could see the depth of the filmmaking. The conversations are both humourous, more so than you'd imagine, and deeply true. When Kendrick and Farmiga discuss the qualities they need in a man, and the consequent differences between their demands, there's a believable aspect to it, and the underplaying of the lines really works.

In fact there isn't a weak performance in the film, and certainly the leading trio will heartily deserve the Oscar nods coming their way, especially Clooney deconstructing his own image and Farmiga who nails the tough exec prepared to take the best of both worlds. Their chemistry together is palpable, albeit one that's used as a major plot device.

The editing and cinematography is largely detached, fitting the airport lounge feel of the film, and the design is also suitably spartan.

Overall the film manages to be something we don't see very often, an adult comedy which isn't afraid to address issues that really worry us in the 21st century, as well as being a workplace drama that throwsback to the star-driven studio output of the 1950's. I loved it.

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