Who’s In It: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman
The Basics: Corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) loves his life – he’s got a booming career, frequent flier miles, and most importantly, no relationships to tie him down. He’s even met a no-strings attached hook-up (Vera Farmiga) who loves racking up loyalty club points as much as he does. So when a young upstart in his company (Anna Kendrick) threatens to make his life on the road obsolete - and trap him in Omaha, the horror! - Ryan takes her on the road to teach her the true art of firing people the old-fashioned way.
What’s The Deal: Sometimes you wonder which Clooney you’re going to get in a movie. I’ve argued the unpredictability of crazy-eyed, mustachioed Clooney before (see: The Men Who Stare at Goats, Burn After Reading). Thankfully, Up in the Air Clooney is Predictably Charming Clooney: a clean-shaven, nice suit-wearing, roguishly handsome perennial bachelor whose charismatic façade belies those beneath-the-surface vulnerabilities that women love to unearth and try to fix. With this archetype, Clooney could phone it in and still make ladies swoon. Around him, director Jason Reitman weaves a subtle character study with just the right amount of comedy and pathos, and plenty of relevant looks at the psychology and reality of job loss in America. But while it’s tightly orchestrated and hits the right notes, Up in the Air still feels like it’s missing something. Something like a soul.
I Don’t Know Who To Feel Sorrier For: Up in the Air features its share of regular joes acting shocked, hurt, confused, angry, betrayed, desperate, and even suicidal when they find themselves across the table from Clooney’s stone-faced messenger. Those people, I feel for. But the film would like you to sympathize more with Clooney’s soul-sucked, lonely corporate stooge who’s given up all human connection in favor of the business travel life. Maybe that’s what it takes to fire people for a living: a commitment to abject, eternal loneliness. At least he gets to fly first class.
Gee, Thanks For The Advice: Reitman is gunning for awards season with his third film after Thank You for Smoking and the Oscar darling Juno, but will audiences embrace his ode to termination when so many have been laid off? It’s harder to empathize more with a guy with 10 million flier miles than with the 15.4 million unemployed folks now struggling to pay the bills in real life. And yet, Reitman’s parting message to all of unemployed America seems to be, “See this guy who fires people for a living and has dashing good looks and nice suits and has sex with hot women all over America? He’s actually got it worse than you. Because he’s lonely, see? So be happy that you’ve got friends and family to get you through these tough times and GIVE ME MY OSCAR!!”
Make Way For Anna Kendrick: If you want to see what it would look like if George Clooney were upstaged by a 5’1” shark in a power suit, look no further. With a finely tuned sense for snark and impeccable timing, the 24-year-old Anna Kendrick (who stole her scenes in Twilight and New Moon, to boot) is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actress this Oscar season.