It is extremely difficult to make a fictional movie about current events that people with both see, and enjoy.
Whether it is war, disease, or in this case the economy, current event movies are often doomed because movies are supposed to be an escape and not a reminder of life’s problems.
So how do you make a movie about the economy and show people losing their jobs that does not either bum people out or beat you over the head with some sort of political message? Watch “Up in the Air” and find out.
“Up in the Air” has already won Best Picture from the National Board of Review and assuming Vegas did odds for the Oscars this early, it would be the favorite.
The movie stars George Clooney (more on him later) as Ryan Bingham, a corporate hit man who works for a firm that sends him and others all over the country to fire people when those respective companies are afraid to. His job requires him to live in and out of hotels and airports 275 days a year and the remaining days he goes home to Omaha where his firm is located and lives in his sterile-looking apartment.
On the side he does speaking engagements where he uses a backpack as a metaphor for how to live life (this will be on par with Jack Nicholson’s chicken salad speech from “Five Easy Pieces” you watch!). Just based on this speech you find out all you need to know about Ryan.
Soon, his boss, played to scumbag perfection by Jason Bateman (“Juno”, “Arrested Development”, and “Dodgeball”) introduces him to young Natalie Keener played wonderfully by Anna Kendrick (“Twilight”) a Cornell graduate who joins the firm and implements a new strategy of firing people over webcam to save money on travel costs. This offends Bingham and he ends up taking her on the road to show her the ropes of the job and to prove that he is not obsolete. Along the way he meets Alex, played amazingly by Vera Farmiga (“The Departed”) who says she’s the female version of Ryan. They have a relationship of sorts and as Ryan and Natalie go on the road he begins to question his lifestyle.
Now to answer the previous question: why does a movie about people who fire other people even appear remotely enticing given the state of the economy?
While the firing is dealt with (during montages of Ryan firing people real people were fired on camera to get authentic reactions of all kinds), it never comes off as preachy. Instead the issue is the background of the film. Also, the script is both heavy and very witty, and despite the subject matter you will find yourself laughing hysterically throughout. Aside from the three leads, the film boasts great performances from Danny McBride, Sam Elliot, J.K. Simmons, and Jason Bateman. It also has a great soundtrack. However, the number one reason over anything else that this movie succeeds is simply…George Clooney. Plain and simple.
This movie caused me to realize that if Clooney were an athlete he’d be Peyton Manning. Think about it, they both had major doubts as to whether they could succeed (Clooney prior to “ER” and Manning during the draft), both had major statistical moments (“Ocean’s 11″ for Clooney and the 49 touchdown season for Manning), both won a title in 2006 (Clooney’s Oscar and Manning’s Super Bowl), they both have uncanny charm, and the biggest comparison I can make is that no matter how good we’ve seen them and no matter how many different ways we’ve seen them succeed they can still find new ways to wow us and redefine their careers. This year Clooney has had three amazing performances “The Men Who Stare at Goats”, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and now “Up in the Air”. Manning is having his best season ever and is doing it with a new coach, mostly new receivers, and is still undefeated.
“Up in the Air” is without question the best film this year, I know I’ve made that claim a few times but this time I’m sure (plus, we’re running out of year). Jason Reitman who gave us “Thank You For Smoking”, and “Juno” continues to prove he is one of the best young filmmakers in the business right now.
If this is not your type of film, checkout the action film “Armored” or Robert DeNiro’s family drama “Everybody’s Fine”.
Stay tuned as next week I play Rugby with Matt Damon in Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus”.
Remember you can see a host fine films at our local Edwards theaters. Click here for show times.