Friday Film: Up in the Air (2009)

George Clooney (Ryan Bingham), Vera Farmiga (Alex Goran), Anna Kendrick (Natalie Keener), Jason Bateman (Craig Gregory)

Directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking)

IMDB: With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.

The less I say about the ending, the better. It ruined the film for me, which is a shame because it was a lovely experience until then. Adding "gotcha" moments to character-driven dramas is not my favorite device.

But that aside, how awesome is George Clooney? Watching him come to terms with his conscience, obligations, and sticky human relationships was like watching the best of his Doug Ross/"ER" days. He has this way of dipping his head and clenching his jaw when his character is trying to hold back what he'd really like to be saying or smacking. It's decidedly sexy because what isn't said is so very intriguing. Just what would he do if he let loose? Rawr.

And for once in the history of Hollywood cinema...a love match that made sense! It wasn't just that he was paired with Vera Farmiga, an actress who is a mere twelve years younger than him--as opposed to the two decades that generally separate aging male leads from their ingenue co-stars. No, what struck me were their matched temperaments and sly, sarcastic comedic styles. Clooney and Farmiga had genuine, likable chemistry in a way that didn't zing or sizzle, but simply was. They became people I wanted to hang out with, and people I could imagine wanting to hang out with each other. That easiness between them created an old-time vibe, as if, with a few minor tweaks, this same film could've been made in the 1950s.

Anna Kendrick was very good as the newbie corporate shark who wasn't such a shark after all. I loved the women's discussion of what makes the perfect guy. Young Natalie had a hundred qualifications, while older, slightly jaded Alex had only one: "A nice smile. Yeah, a nice smile just might do it." Brilliant work there from both the performances and the writers.

But that ending. Poop on you. There is such a thing as a character arc. People enjoy it. We like to think that our two hours spent in fictional company had a purpose. Having the rug jerked out from under one's expectations is not the hallmark of a mature storyteller, but of a 19-yo nihilist who thinks the melancholy ending is more realistic. Not always, buddy.

1 comment:

Leah Braemel said...

Watch the deleted scenes on the DVD -- they totally changed his character arc and I wish they hadn't. I was pleasantly surprised with it--the ending, I could argue either way. It's probably more true-to-life the way it is, instead of the HEA we wanted to see.