out of Five
Running time: 109
Hugely enjoyable, well written comedy-drama that delivers a powerful emotional kick, thanks to terrific performances and strong chemistry between Clooney and Farmiga.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jason Reitman, Up in the Air is based on the comic novel by Walter Kirn (who wrote Thumbsucker) and stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a management consultant who spends most of the year travelling, since his job is to fly all over the country and fire people whose companies are downsizing. Ryan has streamlined his life to the point where he has minimal contact with his family and no relationship ties, but he suddenly finds his lifestyle threatened when new recruit Natalie (Twilight's Anna Kendrick), introduces a video-conferencing system that will permanently ground him if it takes off.
The timing couldn't be worse, since Ryan has just begun a passionate sexual relationship with fellow frequent flyer and apparent kindred spirit Alex (Vera Farmiga), so he persuades his boss (Jason Bateman) that Natalie isn't familiar enough with the human realities of firing people and takes her on one last round-the-country trip to show her the ropes.
Clooney is terrific as Ryan, even allowing his own 'permanent bachelor' tabloid persona to subtly inform the character. He also has smoking hot chemistry with Farmiga (always excellent but on top form here), while there's brilliant support from Kendrick as the buttoned-up Natalie.
There's also good work from Melanie Lynskey (as Ryan's about-to-be-married sister), Danny McBride (as Lynskey's fiance) and Bateman as Ryan's smooth-talking boss, while Sam Elliott contributes a particularly brilliant cameo towards the end.
The sharply-written script is excellent, with extremely well drawn characters and moments that are, by turns, romantic, moving, darkly serious (the firing scenes) and laugh-out-loud funny. However, just when you think you know where the film is going, it pulls the rug from under you in unexpected ways, resulting in a surprising, yet fitting finale.
In addition, Reitman orchestrates several excellent scenes (watch for a peerless cameo by J.K. Simmons) and includes a number of striking images, such as Natalie sitting in a room full of discarded office chairs.
In short, Up in the Air is a superbly written, impressively directed and brilliantly acted comedy-drama that sidesteps the usual cliches and has a few emotional surprises up its sleeve. Highly recommended.