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Up in the Air -- Film Review
By Stephen Farber, September 06, 2009 07:02 ET
Bottom Line: Laughs and heartbreak meld seamlessly in this brilliant character drama.
Telluride Film Festival
TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Cynicism and sentiment have melded magically in movies by some of the best American directors, from Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder to Alexander Payne. Jason Reitman mined the same territory in "Thank You for Smoking" and his smash hit, "Juno," and it's pleasing to report that he's taken another rewarding journey down this prickly path in his eagerly awaited ...view middle of the document...
Ryan sees his footloose lifestyle threatened, but he is forced to take Natalie on a cross-country odyssey to train her in the niceties of delivering bad news deftly. The interplay between the world-weary Ryan and the naive Natalie makes for delicious comedy, and Kendrick plays her role smoothly. There's also a wonderful performance by Vera Farmiga as Alex, a dynamo who clicks with Ryan because she's also seeking no-strings sex on the run. ("Think of me as you with a vagina," Alex tells Ryan helpfully.)
Eventually, Ryan begins to question the assumptions that have ruled his life. His encounters with Alex and Natalie threaten his complacency. We can't help worrying that the film may take a sentimental turn, but miraculously, it never does. A scene in which Ryan returns home for a family wedding and talks a reluctant groom (well played by Danny McBride) into going through with the nuptials is a beautifully modulated sequence that manages to be poignant without ever falling into slop. Reitman is a rare director with heart as well as sardonic humor, but he always knows when to pull back. There is only one false note -- a montage sequence near the end in which several of the people fired by Ryan burble about their love for their families -- that simply restates the obvious.
But if this tiny gaffe reveals a touch of insecurity on Reitman's part, the rest of the film is perfectly controlled. The entire cast is splendid. A couple of "Juno" alumni pop up: Jason Bateman is the smarmy boss who makes Ryan look humane, and J.K. Simmons has a single scene that proves just how much a master actor can convey in two or three minutes of screen time.
The razor-sharp editing by Dana Glauberman gives the film a breezy momentum even while it's delivering piercing social insights. Holding everything together is Clooney, who bravely exposes the character's ruthlessness while also allowing us to believe in his too-late awakening to the possibilities he's missed. It's rare for a movie to be at once so biting and so moving. If Ryan's future seems bleak, there's something exhilarating about a movie made with such clear-eyed intelligence.
“Up in the Air.”
by Anthony Lane December 7, 2009
Vera Farmiga and George Clooney in Jason Reitman’s new movie.
Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/12/07/091207crci_cinema_lane#ixzz1V2abzVWu
For most people there’s no joy in sucking down recycled oxygen while hurtling above the clouds. The free drinks and freshly baked cookies in business might be nice. (I wouldn’t know.) For most of us, though, air travel largely invokes the indignities of the stockyard, complete with the crowding and pushing, the endlessly long lines, hovering handlers, carefully timed feedings, a faint communal reek and underlying whiff of peril. The skies rarely seem friendly anymore, but to Ryan Bingham, the corporate assassin played by George Clooney in the laugh-infused stealth tragedy “Up in...