Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 19, 2010

Sky high!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:47 pm

February 19, 2009

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Director: Jason Reitman

Who would have expected laughs from a film that taps into two of the most relevant fears and anxieties of our times? Up In The Air, directed by Jason Reitman, turns a story about air-travel and redundancy into a smart, poignant, and oddly comical film experience.

George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a bachelor and professional corporate downsizer, who spends some 322 days a year in a business-class bubble, flying across America and firing luckless company employees whose bosses are too cowardly to do the dirty job themselves.

Just so you understand the man we’re dealing with, Bingham is emotionally detached from the real world, happy to be notching up air miles, and miserable about having to return for even 40 or so days a year to his characterless apartment. Home, as we hear him say sitting in his reclining airline seat, is right here.

His carefree existence leaves him free for casual no-strings-attached encounters with fellow business traveler Alex (played by Vera Farmiga), who schedules her flights to synchronize their one-night stands. His perfect life is threatened, however, when his company hires dynamic, twenty-something newbie Natalie (played by Anna Kendrick) who reckons she can do Bingham’s job more efficiently by firing people over the Internet.

The film works from the moment in because it’s so sharply written, and because it avoids cliché and sentimentality at every unpredictable turn. It’s not easy to find sympathy for a man who makes a living firing others, a man who isn’t interested in real relationships, who really wishes he didn’t have any responsibility to family. But Clooney and his director Reitman pull this off superbly, and they do it without turning Bingham soft, allowing you instead to see him with his warts and all.

The scenes in which he fires company staffers are chilling, and it helps that the director hired many real people who were recently laid off, to play those roles. The humiliation, the anger, the desperation on their faces is more convincing and authentic than actors might have been able to bring.

Despite its often grim subject matter, Up In The Air offers an enjoyable balance of laughs and sorrows. Both actresses — Farmiga and Kendrick — provide some flawless support, but it’s Clooney’s show from start to finish, and he plays Bingham with just the right combination of melancholy and charm.

I’m going with four out of five for director Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air. It’s an insightful comedy that will linger in your mind for days. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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