The Academy Award nominated film Up In The Air does prepare for take off but doesn’t quite rise to far from the runway. Partly set in Omaha, Nebraska Up In the Air is part comedy yet more so solemn film about what happens when curve balls are thrown into a perfunctory lifestyle. Starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a man who’s practically married to a career that flies him all over the country to terminate the careers of others - subsequently keeping him nearly living on planes. Ryan’s seemingly happy habitual life with no ardent commitment to anyone or any place is soon challenged when Up In The Air suggests that his belief of happiness is not genuine and will only truly be content until he meets that someone special.
If there ever was a perfect match for Ryan it would be that of Alex Goran, who swoops into Ryan’s world unexpectedly and casually with no strings attached. Though Alex, played nicely by Vera Farminga, is basically the female version of Ryan with her effortless sex appeal, intelligence, confidence, and a life on the road and appears to be that ‘someone special’- their courtship is predictable. Furthermore, despite Alex’s surface likability director Jason Reitman was so busy getting the point across that these characters were stoic and indomitable he fails in allowing the viewer to truly invest in any single character.
Then there is the second female curve ball that throws Ryan’s world off kilter – Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) the newest addition to the company that Ryan works so diligently for. Natalie is a bright eyed-bushy tailed-go-getting college graduate who seems all too anxious to be the new bearer of bad news to employees who are losing their jobs. In one of the few interesting ironies in Up In The Air, though Ryan immediately feels that his assumed permanent fixture in the company is threatened by Natalie’s fresh ideas, he is somehow lost on the fact that he does work for a company that is hired to fire at a moment’s notice. Despite their thorny, competitive driven, initial meeting of one another Ryan and Natalie actually form a likeable mentor-apprentice type relationship that thankfully avoided the obligatory romp in the sack when opposite genders work closely together. This was a good writing choice in Up In the Air and the casting of Anna Kendrick was just as smart. Kendrick was the best thing the movie had to offer but even she couldn’t sustain this mildly interesting story.
Speaking of performances, George Clooney’s was one of his standard work and isn’t anything you haven’t seen already. This fast talking, over confident, suit wearing, suave ladies man is damn near a reprisal of Clooney’s role in Michael Clayton, oops - or was that Batman? Clooney’s real life personality seems to override his portrayals regardless of how different they may be scripted and in the process appears to be getting an Oscar nod for playing himself.
Reitman’s attempt of discovering the “true destiny” for these folks in an inconspicuous way with some dry humor and callous realities did not dodge the obvious, this was a mainstream movie covered with indie wrapping paper. Up in the Air isn’t a dreadful piece of work yet rather one that barely scratches the surface of mediocrity – raising the question of how high (in the air or otherwise) were the voters of the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate this film for Best Picture of the year!