Up in the Air (2009)

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The trailer did this movie no justice. Instead of the typical middle-aged crowd pleaser I was expecting, I got an intelligent, insightful, subtle drama. Everybody in this is marvelous, including the ubiquitous cameo, in this played by Zach Galifianakis, who seizes his opportunity wholeheartedly. Up in the Air is not the most memorable of the nominees, but maybe that's because its characters are so human. They all start out seeming like stereotypes until they spend time together and we realize there's a lot more there. And as we realize this, so do the characters. We go on this journey with them and it's beautiful and ugly and simple and complex. And we all come out the better for it in the end.



Up in the Air is a rather original story set up almost like a romantic comedy, but which turns out, surprisingly, to be much more serious and clever. This is the story of a man detached from steady relationships who travels constantly and blissfully all over America firing people.

Apart from a clever script with witty dialogue, three things stood out for me in this film: near perfect performances by the entire cast (especially by George Clooney, Ana Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga), poignant injection of interviews from real-life workers who were laid off, and the periodical placement of pretty panoramas of various towns-traveled by Clooney's character.

The first half hour of the film is filled with uncomfortable exposition dominated by scenes of Clooney and his suitcase getting about airports. Most people will enjoy the dialogue between Clooney and Farmiga about different member's cards they collect, but I found it tedious and corny. It really isn't until Ana Kendrick shows up with her fresh-out-of-the-Ivy-League attitude and optimism that the film really takes off. In fact the movie is really at its peak when the Oscar-nominated trio of main characters interact in the mid-section of the movie.

Overall, this film soars. It could have easily become cliché dead weight, but instead detours delightfully to a fun and memorable destination.