Monday, December 28, 2009

Up in the Air (2009) – Review

Up in the Air is funny, insightful and a film for the times, yet ultimately depressing (but still good, not everything needs to leave the viewer happy). The most striking aspect of the film is how well it fits today’s American psyche. The film does have a sense of hope to it, yet lives in the tough times, both personal to the characters but also for America and Americans as a whole. While the film can be appreciated by any audience, it feels like an American film. It is almost a deconstruction of the American Dream or promise, shown remarkably through what appears to be real life videos of employees initially dealing with being terminated. The journey taken by George Clooney’s character is transformative, yet appears to be tried and true terrain of a character set in their ways, not believing in love, who falls in love and that changes everything – yet this film approachs the world as if it were real, and in the real world people are complex and things do not always work out – this leaves Clooney with a choice, and the result up for interpretation by the audience. Leaving an ending up to the audience to determine is a tricky device that often leaves the film feeling incomplete, but a credit to director Jason Reitman Up in the Air’s ending works quite well. It does not let the Clooney character off the hook, but there is a sense of optimism for the future (which again plays into the need for Americans to feel like it is getting better) aided by the employee videos explaining how the change (aka being let go) ended up resulting in something good for them. Technically the film is sound, Reitman makes a few odd decisions, but overall he has made a fine looking film. Most notably odd is his choice to film the wedding scene almost like a home video while the rest of the film is not done in that style, it will not bother most, but just seemed strange and unnecessary. The narrative structure of the film also lags at times in the first half of the film, but once the main story picks up, and the Anna Kendrick character comes into the film it really flows. Rolfe Kent’s score felt a bit underwhelming as well. However, Reitman succeeds at garnering great performances throughout. Clooney sort of glides through the movie playing his typical sort of character/role, but it worked perfectly for what the character and film needed. Vera Farmiga is also quite good. The surprise standout though is Kendrick. She is pitch perfect in her role (I look forward to see how she develops the rest of her career, Twilight films aside). The film also has a number of comedians like Zach Galifianakis, Jason Bateman and Danny McBride, yet it is only Galifianakis that is given any comical work to do (his opening bit is fun). Up in the Air is an American film just at the right time. 8/10

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