Up in the Air, directed by the great and powerful Jason Reitman, focuses on the character of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). Ryan enjoys living out of a suitcase for his job, which is to travel around the 50 states and fire individuals from their white-collar jobs, on behalf of their companies. However, Ryan’s lifestyle is threatened by the presence of a new hire (Anna Kendrick), who wishes to “computerize” Ryan’s job thereby rendering his travels void and also a potential love interest (Vera Farmiga), whose lifestyle intersects that of Ryan’s.
This isn’t the most flashiest movie that I’ve seen, in fact, its premise seemed very uninspiring and odd, compared to the movies that I enjoy watching. However, I was surprised by how well this film was executed. Yes, about two thirds of this films’ runtime takes place in an office setting, where we witness ordinary Americans being let go of their hard earned jobs through no fault of their own. However, the manner in which this was executed on screen made it very interesting yet very saddening. We also got to witness just how depressing, travel-oriented and “scripted” Ryan’s job actually is. He is required to travel around the US for more than 320 days a year, and is motivated by the premium travel perks that he enjoys (priority check-in, free upgrades etc.).
There were a few other things I liked about Up in the Air. The dynamic between Clooney Kendricks’ character was fun. It was a sort of a mentor-protégé relationship, where the two jetted their way around various American cities, while Anna Kendrick’s character learned the tricks and trades of Binghams’ job. On the technical side, the editing in this film was smooth and respectable. A montage that impressed me was that in the beginning of the movie, where we saw Bingham pack his suitcase for yet another trip. The faultless manner in which he did so reinforced his comfort and familiarity with travelling.
On the negative side, there was a lot of blatant advertising from companies such as American Airlines and Hilton Hotels. This got mildly irritating towards the end. Also, this film was not completely devoid of boredom. In particular, there was a wedding sequence that took place in the final half of this movie that I wasn’t very divested in.
In summary, I feel that different audiences would interpret this movie in different ways. Some might feel that it is a romance film in disguise, where one man discovers love and has a change-of-heart from wanting to live out of a suitcase to wanting to settle down and start a new family. Others might see this movie as an indirect discussion of the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown, where hundreds of American companies were forced to downsize, leaving their laid-off employees in emotional and financial distress. Whatever way you end up interpreting this film, there were certainly many positives to say about it.