Thursday, December 17, 2009

Up in the Air

My thoughts on Up in the Air for WE's best movies of 2009

Starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick
Directed by Jason Reitman

George Clooney’s confident smirk and sexy swagger can sell almost any movie. By the knocking of my knees, did he work it in 2009! He had starring roles in The Men Who Stare at Goats and Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it’s his turn as a frequent-flying axe-man in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air where he truly soars.

Clooney’s Ryan Bingham spends over 300 days a year jetting between various U.S. cities, paid by cowardly corporations to downsize their employees. Ryan’s also a wannabe motivational speaker, having perfected a lengthy riff about the ways in which human attachments weigh us down.

Of course, a solitary man obsessed with the manufactured loyalty of frequent-flyer programs is subconsciously looking for people to kick down the door of his detachment. Cue the sexy Alex (the winning Vera Farmiga), a female version of Ryan; and Natalie (a superb Anna Kendrick), Ryan’s tightly-wound, recently graduated protégée. The casting is perfect: Clooney and Farmiga fit together seamlessly, and Twilight backbencher Kendrick sparkles opposite these two heavyweights.

That said, what makes Up in the Air one of the year’s best is its timing. Filmed two years ago, when everyone was trying to scramble down from the precipice of economic collapse, the movie feels eerily prescient. Reitman’s been faulted by some critics for “exploiting” real people recently laid off from their jobs in scenes throughout the film, but in capturing the current global desperation felt by millions of people who are now jobless, and dressing it up with extraordinary performances, we’re reminded just how relevant movies can be. —Andrea Warner

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