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Airport 2009: The Gentle Landing

Who's In It: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey

The Basics: Cold, somewhat unfeeling Clooney--a guy with no friends and no emotional connection to his own family--has what he considers the perfect job, jetting around the country firing people whose employers are too passive and scared to do it themselves. He enjoys his carefree bachelor life (with a special fondness for all the flier miles he accumulates) and along the way meets the equally no-strings Vera Farmiga for naked sex-times. But when his company starts sacking employees online instead of in-person, he's so unhappy about being grounded that his entire personality disintegrates and he gets all mushy for Farmiga. Cue low-key personal semi-growth.

What's The Deal: Jason Reitman's satires are the gentlest kind, more interested in laughs than in getting hardcore or tough-minded about a message. And because this grown-up comedy has Academy Awards in its sights everything feels too safe. It's content to be funny enough about its impersonal downsizing premise without rubbing the audience's face in the actual bleak despair of job loss; it's smart enough, yet pulls punches on delivering hard satire about the anti-human impersonal culture of corporate greed responsible for the current state of the economy; and it's emotionally prickly while refusing to get too existential about human disconnection. Meanwhile, anything else that threatens to rock the movie's boat is calmed by George Clooney's perma-charm.

Plot Line That Makes Very Little Sense: Clooney's character, a guy who unburdens himself of all responsibilities, is presented as something of a rare breed. So how is it that his gig moonlighting as a motivational speaker whose message is "stop owning things and caring about other people" (a vocation where the end result would be that you turn into one of the Tibetan monks in 2012) is something anyone pays to listen to?

Worth Seeing For: Whoever was in charge of casting. Vera Farmiga, not being George Clooney, has to work even harder not to come off as a person you dislike and she winds up the most clear-eyed and reasonable character in the movie. And young Anna Kendrick--she was the Margo Channing-like showtunes girl in Camp-- makes for a great Type-A pain. You also get funny, weird moments from J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride and Zach Galifianakis, as well as some non-actors who were actually fired from their jobs playing a lot of the terminatees. Last but not least, the suddenly back-in-demand Young MC (performing "Bust a Move" in not only this film but also in The Blind Side).


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