Movie Review: Up In The Air

So this is the first movie review that I've ever written, well, written since the 6th grade when I did a movie review for the Forest Trail Junior High School newspaper. So for my film reviews I'm going to be assigning the stereotypical 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being One of the Best Movies Ever and 1 being You Could Not Pay Me to Watch This Movie Again. So the other night, I took my lovely girlfriend Jesse out to a movie, and we went to see Up in the Air, the new Jason Reitman film starring George Clooney. What did I think of it? Did it come close to matching Reitman's previous films Juno or Thank You For Smoking? Hit the jump to find out.

Up In The Air -

4.5 out of 5 - MUST SEE

Going to a movie is a lot like getting on an airplane. You already know where it's going, so you don't bother getting on unless you know you want to go there. If I want to be uplifted and appreciate humanity, I don't go see Saw IX or Law Abiding Citizen, or if you want blood and guts you don't go see the Blindside. Same way with flying, in that if I want to go to Los Angeles, I don't get on a plane headed for Buffalo. But there are extremely rare occurances when you get on a plane that looks like it's headed one place, but then when you get there it's a different airport and a different place than you thought you were going to, but yet it's almost better that you ended up there. That's Up in the Air in a nutshell, that the movie looks to be following one path the entire time but when you get to ending it's not only different but far better than you thought it was ever going to be. And it such a more brilliant and poignant film because of this.

Up in the Air follows George Clooney, in what is most likely the role where he lands his Best Actor Oscar and deservedly so, as Ryan Bingham, a man who spends almost 300 days a year flying from city to city firing people for corporations that are down-sizing. Every day he is in a new city, a new hotel room, with new people and he couldn't be happier, since his most miserable times of the year are the days he doesn't travel. Bingham is an incredibly fascinating character since he starts the movie not tethered to anything or anyone and he is completely happy and content with his entire life. But then first he meets Vera Farmiga's Alex, a fellow road warrior who also has a no-attachments lifestyle that perfectly fits Ryan, but then he meets Anna Kendrick's Natalie. And while Ryan falls for Alex, he immediately despises Natalie because she is a young upstart co-worker who develops a system of firing people by teleconfrencing, essentially grounding Ryan and forcing him to set roots down in Omaha, which ruin his dream of accumulating 10 Million frequent flyer miles. So to convince Natalie she is wrong and doesn't know what she's doing, Ryan takes her on a cross-country trip with him firing people and basically opening her eyes as to what they actually do at this company. While Natalie is learning about what she's getting into, Ryan is looking at his own life and realizing that maybe his life isn't as appealing to him as it once was.

But if that's all the movie was than it would just be an above-average redemption story with some terrific performances, but thankfully the movie does not go in the direction that you think it does and instead becomes something much better. I'm going to just leave it at that, since pretty much the only plot I've talked about and feel comfortable talking about without ruining the movie is from the first thirty minutes. Instead, I think it's interesting that all of the Jason Reitman films I've seen so far, Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up In The Air, seem to center on men who think that they are content with their lives but soon realize that what they've always known they wanted becomes less important to them. Ryan has so much more in common with Aaron Eckhart's Nick Naylor (TYFS) than he does with Jason Bateman's father-of-the-year Mike Loring (Juno), but there is still that feeling of similarity between the three of them. Kindred souls that are all three left searching for what they believed they had already had, and changing dramatically througout the course of their own quests. What's most amazing is that Reitman approaches these ideas and topics with almost none of the cynicism that we've come to expect when looking at a film like this with this subject matter, the lack of it is as much a breathe of fresh air as everything that is in this film. With three movies that progressively have gotten better and better, until this which is hands down his best, Reitman is developing into a director to surpass his father and puts him in place to stand with the upper echelon of modern day director's like Christopher Nolan and David Fincher.

What really makes this movie soar (groan) are the performances. Jason Bateman is tremendous as the boss, while J.K Simmons and Zach Galifianakis make the most of their incredibly short time on screen playing people being fired by Clooney's Bingham. Both Amy Morton and Melanie Lynskey are great as Clooney's sisters that just flat out don't know him at all, and Danny McBride is amazingly reserved in this film and does a terrific job as Clooney's future brother-in-law. But who really steals the show are the three leads, with Kendrick's Natalie being incredibly annoying at first, but by the end of the movie I really liked her and the performance by Kendrick. Around the time that Young MC shows up in the film I had completely changed my opinion of her, and she works perfectly as a foil to the road warrior Clooney as her inexperience of travel makes for some absolutely hilarious fish-out-of-water moments. But despite that, I can't help but feel that there are too many times when the air gets let out of Natalie's character arc at the wrong moments, when things happen too abruptly with no build-up to it mostly because I'm sure that the build to these moments were edited due to time constraints. And while Kendrick's the brunt of that, on the other side Fermiga's is absolutely incredible as Alex, a complex and involving woman who is truly liberated and relishes the kind of life that Clooney's character longs for. In not only this but also her performance in the Departed, Fermiga has been perfect, bringing depth and subtlety that would have been lost in lesser actresses. She is just amazing in this film, and was easily one of the big highlights for me.

The biggest was the performance by Clooney, heart-breaking and hysterical throughout the entire film. And make no mistake about it, this film is hysterical despite the fact that it is more heart-felt than most of the "Oscar Bait" films that are set to come out this month. There is real sentiment behind Clooney's character, and when you start to see the inevitable shift in how he sees his own life it isn't cheap or rushed at all, but grows organically from the events of the story the way it should. As I've said before, Clooney will definitely be nominated for this performance and he deserves to win for it as well, which is par for the course with Reitman who has a knack for getting his leads to turn out phenomenal work. From Aaron Eckhart to Ellen Page and now to Clooney, Reitman really shows a grasp of giving his leads enough balance and support for them to turn out career defining work in his pictures. That isn't to give him all the credit, as George Clooney is one of the most consistent actors in Hollywood and always does a good job in all of his films, except for the awful Ocean's 12 where no one was good and lots of people's time was wasted. But even compared to his turn in Syriana which earned him Best Supporting Actor, this is the kind of performance that should define Clooney.

Look, this was not a perfect film. There were problems in it and with the way they approached some of the subject matter. But the thing is, I loved this film. This was such a tremendous accomplishment from everyone involved that I don't want to cheapen it by dwelling on minor quibbles with it, and instead decided to focus on the stuff that stuck with me. I think that this is a movie that you have to see in order to truly appreciate the feelings that accompany seeing everything unfold. I think that most anybody will enjoy this film, so grab someone you care abour deeply and take them to see this.

MUST SEE - 4.5 / 5

No comments:

Post a Comment