Dec 8, 2009

Up In The Air

I had high hopes for this film, since some people are touting it the best of the year.
Not even close. This is one strange film, with some right things in place and others that are just not believable, starting with George Clooney as a corporate hack from Omaha.
There is no way that this suave, glamorous man hails, lives, works or is found anywhere near Omaha. Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt; that's someone who is from Omaha. Even if Clooney is good, in his Clooneyesque familiar way, he is too slick for the job.
Vera Farmiga is very good as a fellow million miles traveler and romantic interest, and so is Anna Kendrick, as a perky, uptight corporate girl, but even though the spirit of the movie is in the right place, this being probably the only fictional film from Hollywood that actually depicts our crumbling state of affairs (joblessness, foreclosures, wars), something about it doesn't quite convince. Everything feels forced.
Some of the dialogue is meant to sound like sharp one liners, except that it's something said by people who live in a movie, not in real life. For a film about reality in America, this creates dissonance. There are some scenes with people who have just been told they are fired which feel totally authentic. The rest, not at all.
The tone of this film is hard to sustain. It's a brittle/humane salad, an uneasy mix of dark and uplifting, and frankly, unless you are Billy Wilder and his writers (or Alexander Payne, the only true heir to Wilder, as far as I'm concerned), stuff like this is hard to nail. Jason Reitman did a good job with Juno, but here the brittle part feels too forced and the uplifting part too sappy, everything too contrived.
The movie never really explains cogently why Clooney's character, being just another employee at a terrible company that makes money by firing people from other companies, is also a motivational speaker. If this is meant as satire, it doesn't feel that way.
There are some good moments, as in a sequence where the characters crash into a tech convention party in Miami, which feels as dissociated from reality as those things actually are.  And there is also a fantastic twist involving Farmiga that has Clooney suffering from role reversal. To see someone like him on the other end of the dating stick is a vindication for women everywhere, and Farmiga's character, playing by the rules of men, is tough as nails, bless her.

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