Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Up In the Air

I saw Up In the Air on saturday night. It is well written, well acted, stylishly directed, and has some very funny jokes. George Clooney knocks his role out of the park, and Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga are rightfully receiving Oscar buzz for their supporting roles, and the movie has numerous scenes stolen by brief cameos from Zach Galifianikis, Danny McBride and J.K. Simmons. It is a very good movie - I didn't enjoy it very much.

I discussed the movie with my father last night. His basic take on it was that "people who call movies like Up In the Air and About Schmidt 'comedies' are full of bullshit." That's putting it bluntly, but I totally understand what he means. Ryan Bingham, the movie's main character is a consultant who is hired by companies to fire their employees for them. He spends less than forty days a year in the cheap one-bedroom apartment that he rents; he spends more than three hundred days travelling each year, and his biggest goal in life is to reach 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles. Bingham's two sisters are unhappy with the modest lives they lead in small-town northern Wisconsin. There is a plot twist in the second half of the movie that, without giving anything away, is as big of a stomach-punch as anything I've seen in a mainstream movie since Maggie Fitzgerald broke her neck in Million Dollar Baby. As if that wasn't depressing enough, the movie takes a break from the plot every so often to show a series of brief interviews with the employees that Ryan Bingham has fired, who talk about the depression and stress of getting laid off.

Perhaps those scenes just his a little too close to home for me, but those laid-off employees - some of whom are played by actors, but most of whom are real-life laid-off workers - cut me to the bone. A movie about a depressing subject does not become more enjoyable by dint of being well-made; it becomes more difficult to watch, and while Up In the Air is no Schindler's List or The Killing Fields, it isn't the free-wheeling, Bonfires of the Vanities-esque satire that its advertising campaign and many mainstream reviews have made it out to be. As a movie, it is brilliant. As an entertainment, it is a cold shower. A cold, depressing shower.

8 comments:

twoeightnine said...

Except for the actual job that Ryan has it was scary how much his life paralleled mine. Traveling the country for work. Not having a real place. Connections and relationships constantly coming and going.

Wade Garrett said...

But Bingham's job makes a big difference. Professional athletes travel the country for their jobs, and don't really have a 'home' in that their hometown during the season is rarely where they choose to live in the off-season, but their lives are quite a bit different. His job really did it for me.

twoeightnine said...

Yeah but they travel with a group of people season round, they see their friends day in and day out, and have a place that they call their own to rest their head in every time they have a homestand. Even a football player is going to spend 6 nights a week for 5-6 months of the year sleeping in their place.

For the majority of the year I'm in a different city every single day. I travel with a different group of people every week. I go months without seeing coworkers and friends. And I bang hot women in hotel rooms.

Ellen said...

I disagree with you about the twist (if I'm thinking of the right one); I thought it was predictable and I expected better.

That said, today I overheard a woman saying the movie made her sad because she wanted to travel somewhere. Reitman wept.

Wade Garrett said...

I don't know if the twist itself was that unexpected, but Bingham's reaction to it was painful to see nonetheless. In hindsight a couple of her comments to Anna Kendrick suggested it - with the 'he should earn more money than you do, it might not make sense now, but just trust me' line being the most obvious of them.

Senor Beavis said...

Yeah, if you're trying to ward off an existential crisis, don't go see this. It'll triple it for you.

Senor Beavis said...

I'd also like to mention that Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings' cover of "This Land is Your Land" officially rules.

Wade Garrett said...

I second that - the friends I saw it with and I all hung around until the end of the credits to see who had performed it.