Thursday, 14 January 2010
FILM REVIEW: UP IN THE AIR
Casting George Clooney, cinema's reigning Mr Charisma, as a terminator for corporate America is the first sign that director Jason Reitman's comedy has more on its mind than frivolous entertainment. And just as he did with his previous film, the sublime Juno, Reitman uses humour to reveal some of life's harsh realities.
Clooney is Ryan Bingham. He works for a comapny that flies him across the US, business class every time, to enter offices on behalf of the company that has engaged his company's services, to inform their employees they've lost their jobs. Few charming visages could make the sinking in of the metaphorical knife less painful than that of Mr. Clooney.
Given the current economic climate, business is booming and Ryan's goal of achieving 10 million frequent flier miles is ever closer. But then his boss (a smarmy Jason Bateman) announces ambitious new employee Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) has developed the means to fire people via the internet, meaning Ryan's high flying lifestyle may soon be coming to an end.
That blow could be cushioned somewhat by Alex (Vera Farmiga), a similarly peripatetic soul whom Ryan connects with whilst on the road. Alex is Ryan's female equivalent, “you with a vagina” she tells him. She doesn't want commitment from Ryan just a good time whenever their schedules happen to align. Farmiga is sexy personified and you can easily understand why Ryan would do a double take.
He connects with Alex in between chaperoning Natalie across country, attempting to prove to her, and his boss, that what he does is far too important to entrust to a webcam. Natalie not only observes how Ryan operates but how he lives - no attachments, no ties; no marriage, no kids - which she finds unfathomable. Natalie herself believes she will find 'the one' and has an exhaustive checklist to identify him.
All of this plays out slickly and Reitman's film, co-scripted with Sheldon Turner from the book by Walter Kirn, could be enjoyed simply as a comic-drama with higher than average smarts. But looks can be deceiving: this is an intelligent film, about grown-ups for grown-ups. It's not played for laughs, though there are some great lines, but each comes with a kernel of truth about not only how we live our lives but how we, and others, view that way of life.
After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival last year, Up In The Air immediately assumed Oscar frontrunner status. It has since been usurped by the influx of critics' awards for Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (coming late February) and James Cameron's box office behemoth Avatar.
But expect the film, Reitman and his three stars to all be nominated later this month. And with a preferential voting system, don't be at all surprised if Up In The Air scores the Best Picture Oscar. Some will say that a win would be by default; see it for yourself and know it's not.