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"Up In The Air" Review

The latest film by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) attempts to show the lighter side of corporate downsizing via George Clooney's charming commitmentphobe who traipses across the country axing employees - he used to be Batman; now he's the Terminator! - for his downsizing firm. Saddled with a fresh-out-of-college rookie (Anna Kendrick) with radical ideas for making this dehumanizing process even more depersonalized, he manages to avoid getting tied down by constantly staying Up In The Air.

The first two-thirds of the film are breezy in the style of Reitman's previous works. The scenarios are familiar - the new kid, lacking people skills and real-life experience, doesn't know how to give the fired workers an easy letdown - but they lead to showcases for Clooney's ace skills. The scene where he convinces a depressed worker that he hasn't lost his career and meaning in life, but rather has been given an opportunity to stop messing around and get back to what he always wanted to do, just sings. His passing relationship with a fellow road warrior (Vera Farmiga) is also more mature than most movies care to portray.

After a peppy and joyous first two acts, it takes a disappointing turn into predictability in the third as he travels home for a family event. The tone is off and it goes rapidly downhill with the last three supposedly major plot twists being easily foreseen. By this point, we're filled with as much ennui as Clooney and that's not what we signed up for.

As much of a letdown I felt at the end, the more I thought about it the next day, the less I liked Up In The Air. The capper was when over dinner that night, my girlfriend and I simultaneously voiced what was most appalling about the conclusion of the film. I'm knocking another point off the score for this and when a nationally-known film writer mentioned on his Facebook that he thought it was the best movie he saw in 2009, I replied, "What was the other movie you saw if this was the best one?" (Didn't get an answer.)

Clooney is good, but he was better in Michael Clayton, but that was a better film. In addition to the faceplant in the back stretch, we're never really told why he's such a rootless wanderer and why a ax-swinging drone for a company he's not even the boss of would be such an in-demand motivational speaker when what we see of his talks doesn't make much of an impression. I've heard allusions that Reitman butchered the original writer's script but this article debunks that aspect. Even if Reitman made Up In The Air a much better film, it's not flawless by a long shot.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on DVD.


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