Up in the Air (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Up in the Air</strong> (2009)

(In theaters, December 2009) Hollywood is so often geared to kids, teens and family that film made for an adult audience are now rare enough to be remarkable.  So it is that this tale of a professional downsizer confronting professional distress and personal attachment is perhaps more enjoyable for its change of pace than for what it actually delivers.  George Clooney is splendid as a protagonist who comes to reconsider a lifetime of non-attachment, and he has the good fortune of playing against two actresses, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, who do just as well in their own roles: The best scene of the film is a simple three-way conversation in a hotel lobby.  The script itself (which bears only a passing similarity to Walter Kirn’s original novel) seems to be exactly in tune with the times, in-between massive layoffs and widespread hatred of commercial airlines.  Many of the film’s individual moments are oddly amusing, the peek at the life on an ultra-frequent-traveler is interesting and there are clear echoes of Juno in the off-kilter structure of writer/director Jason Reitman’s script.  (Not to mention much of Thank you for Smoking in its cynical premise.)  But there also seems to be an upper limit to Up in the Air’s effectiveness, and the lacklustre third act has something to do with it: After a lengthy detour in Wisconsin, the script more or less goes back to business but studiously avoids wrapping up its threads.  Writer/director Jason Reitman would rather drag things on long enough to diffuse the impact of a more definitive ending, then ends up apparently one of two scenes too early.  Sure, the point is informed character non-growth –which is gutsy enough at a time where “protagonist learns a lesson” is ingrained in Screenwriting 101.  But the ending also deflates some of the film’s prevailing charm… leaving viewers, well, up in the air.  Sometimes, even achieving one’s objective is criticism enough.

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