Thursday, November 19, 2009


By D.E.Levine

Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (screenplay), Walter Krn (book)
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, James Anthony, Steve Eastin, Dave Engfer et al.
Producers: Jeffrey Clifford, Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman
Executive Producers: Michael Beugg, Ted Griffith, Joe Medjuck and Tom Pollock
Associate Producers: Jason Blumenfeld and Helen Estabrook
Original Music:Rolfe Kent
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama

According to Jason Reitman, when he started writing Up In The Air over two years ago he had no idea how relevant it would be today. How could he possibly know that unemployment would rise to 17% (that we know about) and that massive layoffs would actually be done by "hired help".

Flash to 2009 and we're facing the worst unemployment statistics ever and Up In The Air strikes a chord in the heart of every viewer.

Rick Bingham is a self-centered "executive for hire" who flys around the country firing people from companies whose management doesn't want to do the dirty work themselves.

With a pat pre-rehearsed line of platitudes and a pile of severance packets, Rick flys American Airlines Business Class, stays in upscale Hilton Hotels with a food and drink allowance and has his eye on making the 10 Million Mile Club for frequent flyers' loyalty. He will be only the seventh person to achieve that status and he revels in the knowledge that he has set that as his goal.

He's extremely capable, travels 322 days a year and loves the lifestyle. He's among the elite, traveling with one small rolling carry on bag and receiving top-level members-only treatment wherever he goes. He's efficient in his packing, his traveling, his time and his emotions. Basically, he has very little emotional and human psychological interaction on a personal level.

One day he meets a like-minded executive woman, Alex, in a lounge and tells her his dream of the 10 Million Mile Club. Rick seduces a willing Alice and finds they are birds of a feather. They have an easy going relationship, planning their trips so they can meet at airport layovers and seem to be thoroughly enjoying each other and the sex that's included in the relationship.

When a hotshot twenty-something named Natalie convinces Bingham's boss to cut costs by video conferencing and doing all layoffs remotely, it looks like Rick is grounded.

Forced to take Natalie on the road with him and teach her the ropes of how to deliver the bad news of being fired, the film examines the difference in the way Rick and Alex see things as opposed to Natalie's perspective. It's darkly funny.

In a fascinating conversation with Natalie, Rick insists that he never wants marriage and children and is perfectly happy with life the way it is currently. He doesn't have and doesn't want much human connection. He savors his life and wants no hint of commitment.

However, feeling obligated to attend his younger sister's wedding, he takes Alex along for fun and takes her on a tour of his youthful haunts. Along the way he finds that sharing his days and his life with Alex is fun.

Although his older sister scorns him for escaping the ordinary lives the rest of the family live, she calls upon him to use his motivational skills to get the bridegroom over his cold feet and to the alter on his wedding day. While he grudgingly makes an offer to walk his younger sister down the aisle, the job has already been taken by the bridegroom's uncle, and Ryan remains only a guest at the family wedding.

Back in Omaha, Rick is told to train on the video layoff system as his firm goes ahead with plans to ground all the hired firing experts.

Motivated by her boyfriend dumping her, when a woman Natalie laid off commits suicide, Natalie quits the Omaha firm and heads to San Francisco to pursue a dream she gave up. With Rick's reference she lands a job and starts a new life which we suspect doesn't include firing people.

Meanwhile, Rick, now told that video layoffs are on hold while the company takes another look at the process and the after effect, is back traveling in his hired gun capacity.

The question is whether his former lifestyle will now satisfy him once his defenses have been broken down and he has acknowledged that personal relationships matter.