- Actor In a Leading Role: George Clooney
- Actress in a Supporting Role: Vera Farmiga
- Actress in a Supporting Role: Anna Kendrick
- Directing: Jason Reitman
- Best Picture
- Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
At last, a movie which understands the importance of frequent flier miles. Yes, I have 9.5 million miles to go to match George Clooney’s character in the movie, but the thought of my “achieving” 500,000 lifetime United miles on my next trip is something of a milestone. Airmiles, and, more importantly, the status that goes with an unhealthy annual amount of travel are perhaps one of the few ways we have of feeling special in corporate America.
The movie combines this motif with the fact that Clooney’s character does all his travel as a professional firer, which adds another dimension to the plot. When a young colleague suggests remote firing by video, he is faced with the possibility of losing his elite traveling lifestyle. We see them travel together on one last “road” trip as he teaches her the tricks of the trade, and also tries to deal with the possibility of settling down to a “normal” life, via a family wedding.
The movie raises interesting questions about the ethics of hiring external people to fire employees, apparently quite a common practice (for institutions that can afford it). Does it reflect a lack of courage on the part of managers, or is it better to hear bad news from a professional who is sometimes, as we see in the movie, able to offer a positive side to the pain? Plus of course the theme of a middle aged man facing the possibility that his lifestyle may have to change radically (see also “Nine” for a very different approach to this theme…) Overall, definitely a thumbs up from me (or should that be a star alliance gold/one-world platinum card?).
Ah Up in the Air. . . . a movie too close to life in the recent past. Almost all of us have seen layoffs thanks to the “economy” or whatever excuse in the past few years so this movie is incredibly timely. Of course being a middle aged man himself, Mark concentrated on George Clooney’s character in his review 😉 But being a) female and b) a grad student I must review the women in the movie!
First Anna Kendrick: she does an amazing job playing a character that most of us all knew as students. I think you can break college students in three basic groups: group 1 is the group that shows up to class and does the work but just wants to pass, group 2 are those people always interrupting the professors with a “question” that really is some comment on their personal brilliance to remind everyone else (including the professor) how stupid they are and then there is group 3, the people who are in the front row of class and make sure to ask lots of questions so they can seek approval from their superiors, somewhat like a puppy.
Natalie Keener is one of those puppy dog types with her suggestion of remote layoff procedures that will save the company money and she’s visibly hurt that an older more experienced character played by Clooney doesn’t immediately jump on the fabulousity of her idea. As the movie progresses we see that she’s not only one of those perky teacher’s pet types, but that it’s the act that she plays well to hide the fact that she’s stuck in Omaha because she followed a boy and is quite honestly scared to death of being in the “real world”. She desperately tries to hang onto a sense of morality when faced with the need to layoff people, but she’s somewhat shortsighted in that she only sees that it’s “wrong” to layoff people with kids, or husbands with wives who have medical issues that need the health insurance.
Admittedly those are the types of things that pull at the heartstrings immediately, but in the instance of the guy with 2 kids, Clooney was able to dig deeper with a minor check of a personnel file and find that the guy much preferred being a chef and should have just followed his passion rather than get stuck in a crappy job that he probably hated the whole time anyways. Natalie then realizes that everyone’s life story is complicated just like hers, and in the end quits the company to ask for her dream job back in San Fran (which she was offered before and turned down to follow the bf) and in the end gets the job because of a letter written by Clooney’s character who she always saw as a gruff man who never really liked her.
Vera Farmiga’s character Alex however is one of those trapped by their job and their life. She and Clooney’s Ryan Bingham meet in a hotel bar and trade comments about their “status”. Who knew that comparing frequent flier status would turn on business people enough that they’d need to go take a roll in the sheets? They sync schedules and meetup in various towns until the time that Ryan has to drag along Natalie to see what it’s really like to layoff people, then all three of them wind up at hotel which is hosting a geek conference that week. There Ryan sees more of Alex’s character (besides what he sees nekkid in hotel rooms) as she consoles Natalie who is a wee bit of a mess after being dumped by her boyfriend and goes through the list of what you should really look for in a partner and realizes that he fits the bill and probably wants to be Alex’s partner and not lead this life of bachelorhood any longer as he knows that Natalie isn’t the problem, but that the world is changing and his life isn’t going to be the same for much longer anyways.
After a wedding (Ryan’s sister) where he takes Alex as his “date”, he decides to take the plunge and go after her for real, and rings her doorbell. Too bad it’s answered by Alex and he can see and hear her two kids and husband as she already has a life and it’s not the one she’s lived with Ryan. Would she be happier with him as she was during their various cross country interludes? We’ll never know.
Movie-wise this movie isn’t a huge statement piece, rather it is one that follows the ebbs and flows of the characters’ lives much the way last year’s Rachel Getting Married did. I do not think it will win Best Picture as it’s a bit more introspective piece of film without a huge statement unlike the other movies in the category which I think is a shame.