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Up in the Air

November 12, 2009

This is the title of a review for Up in the Air on IMDB: “Outstandingly scripted modern existential comedy.” Depending on how you define these words it may be true. According to urban dictionary the definition of “existential[ism in this case] in the top rated answer is “you can use this word in pretty much any context and it will make you sound pretentious and/or confuse the person you’re talking to.” And lets question what the hell does “outstandingly scripted” really mean? Yes, IMDB reviewers are not professionals and frankly it’s unfair of me to cut down a user’s review (sorry random person). That being said, with the current 8.2 rating of the film on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes certifying it “fresh”, it’s obvious that many who have seen this film shares the same view as the random reviewer—except this chick writing this review. I instead found Up in the Air to be an uninteresting bland attempt at a character study of two people while also tackling the major economical problems of today. It’s a great try but ultimately fails.

Nevertheless I understand why people may like or even love this film despite the great number of flaws I saw in it. It’s a quirky story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man whose job consists of traveling America to fire people whose bosses are too timid to do the job themselves. Bingham states there are 365 days in a year and he travels 336 of them (don’t quote that number) leaving no time for commitment or relationships. Yet he finds joy in this lifestyle, further explored during his motivational lectures praising lack of attachment. However his world is soon turned upside down when he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), an independent female reincarnation of himself and Natalie (Anna Kendrick), an aggressive alumni who joins his company and attempts to change everything he is accustomed to. As both women enter his life and Bingham begins to see the devastating effects that losing a job has on his “customers,” he is forced to reevaluate his thoughts on romantic and familial relationships.

Up in the Air gets brownie points for its originality in exploring quarter-life crisis in females something rarely, if ever, done in film through Natalie; a headstrong 23-year-old with plans of working her way up the business ladder and dreams of marriage and family. Yet a few detours in her plan cause her to rethink life after college and question where she’s headed. While both Natalie and Ryan are meant to captivate audiences of various ages, I found both characters to be completely unrelatable and unrealistic. If I were a middle-aged white collar executive or a spunky fresh-faced business oriented young adult then maybe but alas I’m not. Instead as a 21-year-old liberal film student I found this film’s overall theme of “love and companionship” to be pushy, preachy, and trite.


The script reads like it was written by a post-graduate student who just found true love and thus finds Bingham’s ideology of living a commitment free life to be ill-fated. In this discovery, said grad student then decides the best way to cathartically express his gratitude for his new found feelings of love is to use the film to build Bingham up as a man happy and comfortable with his lifestyle only to break him down in order to push the idea that humans are meant to be committed. Just like during Classical Hollywood the bad guys always had to die because of their sins, Bingham’s carefree lifestyle has to be jarred and destroyed because it’s “wrong” to not feel compassion. [Oddly enough director/writer Jason Reitman got married and started a family over the six year period he spent writing this film].

Reitman’s use of employing the directing style of The Office in some scenes, having an indie soundtrack, and writing a script that was overall dull, unimpressive, and littered with bland jokes on the generational gap of Ryan and Natalie was his weakest choices for this film. Had the story been consistent in both directing style and character development then I’m pretty sure it would have been more enjoyable but to use Juno-esque styles into a film mostly centered around middle-aged people just came off awkward.

Up in the Air is not terrible just mediocre but after attending a Q & A with director Jason Reitman. I get what he meant to portray and the prospective from which he wrote the film. Regardless it was jumbled, lackluster, and about as funny as a Geico commercial. The most upsetting for me was that two comedians who I prayed would be the saving grace of this film, Zack Galifinafikas and Danny McBride, were basically stock characters who added nothing to the humor or progression of the film. If an easy to swallow film drenched in George Clooney’s “charm” is enough to draw you in, then rush to see this movie when it opens everywhere Dec. 4th.

AVOID IT.

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