Up in the Air stars George Clooney and Anna Kendrick
As you may or may not know, this film, Up in the Air, was directed by Jason Reitman. And, as you may or may not know, Jason Reitman also directed the critically acclaimed and much-adored Juno. Now, if you are planning to see Up in the Air because you, being the warm-hearted human being that you are, immensely enjoyed the uplifting and quirky Juno...then this is NOT the film you are looking for. Up in the Air feels less like Juno and much more like Reitman's 2005 satirical comedy, Thank You for Smoking, which he wrote and directed. Up in the Air is not what one would call uplifting and heartfelt, but rather realistic and thought-provoking. And that seems to work in its favor.
That being said, this film, helped by perfectly timed Clooney half-smiles, perfectly delivered Jason Bateman dry comedy and a rather ambiguous ending, keeps itself from becoming too depressing. Laughter is due mostly from the slightly sad, yet determined antics of Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham. You cannot help but laugh when you see someone as classy as George Clooney fall off a dock while trying to recover a 4-foot cardboard cut-out of his sister and her new fiance (Danny McBride), or while watching him attempt to "bust a move" while crashing a nerdy tech party in his hotel (ie: see Young MC cameo). The second part of the movie is an different animal than the first part, as Clooney's Bingham has to come to terms with the possible elimination of his happy travels and also the idea of connecting to someone besides the pilot of his favorite airline or the help attendants of his favorite rental car company. Watching Bingham struggle to change, with the added weight of Natalie's (played by Kendrick) youthful naivety and nagging insightfulness, leaves the audience feeling simultaneously determined and down-trodden; a reflection of the ups and downs of lives portrayed in the film.
Overall, this was an excellent film - though it could be reasonably said that the acting was better than the film itself. George Clooney and Anna Kendrick (Twilight Saga), both of whom have stirred up an avalanche of Oscar buzz for their roles in the film, accomplish what very few actors ever merely touch upon in their careers; they convincingly and realistically allow the audience to connect and relate to characters who live their lives completely contrastive to their own. This is not exactly unexpected coming from Clooney, though it's no less effective and awe-inspiring (he was as charming and easy to watch as he always proves to be). Anna Kendrick on the other hand, who was barely known before her small part in Twilight, proved that she could stand beside (and up to) an Oscar-winning actor like George Clooney and not only hold her own, but shine while doing so. Vera Farmiga, playing the female equivalent to Clooney's character, beautifully portrayed the same confidence and charm in her character as Clooney did his. Their obvious chemistry was reflected in the casual, yet intimate scenes they shared. Farmiga's character, Alex, did not have as much screen time as the other two, leaving the viewer to feel like the larger and more important relationship of the movie was not the Ryan/Alex romance, but rather the unwilling acquaintanceship between Clooney's and Kendrick's characters, and the subsequent effect of that relationship on both of them.
As an added bonus for us Atlantians, the adorable Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars, Private Practice), who was born and raised here in Atlanta, plays a small role as Bingham's assistant and Atlanta gets a shout-out ("Hot-lanta"), specifically for Fat Matt's BBQ. Thanks for the plug, Reitman!