Thursday, December 3, 2009

Check It. Up in the Air.

Long story short: this movie will hit you. Hard. Even if you expect it; which I believe many of the companions I watched this film with, as well as myself, did. You'll expect it to hit you and affect you, and it will, and it will also refuse to let go.

But "Up in the Air" deserves the long story. Jason Reitman's (Juno) latest film stars the perfectly cast George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a guy who travels around the country firing lists upon lists of people in corporate arenas. It's a horrible job to say in the least, soullessly repetitive and ritualistic, but Ryan enjoys the lone wolf lifestyle with business-class perks. It's a life completely void of emotion, and he likes it that way.

Which is why he's a bit more than bothered when the fresh-out-of-college biz whiz Natalie threatens his relevance (and airline miles!) with a simple click on the webcam. Lessons are about to be taught, and that's where the emotion comes in.

But don't expect a whirlwind of violins and dramatic pauses. What you won't be able to get out of your head is how real this movie feels, and how shamelessly so. Reitman was able to capture realism not only in the apt timing of the layoffs storyline, but in the just-funny-enough random quirks and in the heartbreaks of realization--all within the subtleties of regular life. It's somehow bold in its understatement and that's what makes it admirable; I can't imagine a more realistic, or better, portrayal of these trying times.

Nevertheless, this is Clooney's movie. It's strange how Clooney is both so present in this role as Ryan as well as himself--he has all the independent, confident charm of the movie star, but also the modesty of a simple man struggling with denial about his hollow life. You feel for him because you see so much of himself in this role, and yet, there are times you barely realize that this guy is supposed to be one of the sexiest men alive.

No doubt about it: this movie can be a tough one emotionally, for the simple fact that it certainly doesn't shy away from our sad contemporary reality. But it also has an undeniable light to it, from the actors' performances to the often-hilarious and intriguing screenplay. The film won't let go of you, but you won't want it to either.

--Chau Tu

Photo credit: Paramount

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