Monday, December 21, 2009

Up in the Air: a review

So Saturday eve we went (with our friends Barbara & Eli) to see Up in the Air. It's like no other movie you've ever seen, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. George Clooney - who I think is the last real movie star - is brilliant. But the character he plays is an empty vessel. He works for a company that sends people out to fire people. That's it, just to fire people. Although it's only mentioned once or twice, their main purpose is to prevent the people being fired from suing. Their job is to convince those being fired that this is a new beginning - at whatever age or qualifications. In order to be able to do this day-after-day, year-after-year, one has to be an emotional void. Of course, Clooney is his usual charming self. He travels many miles up in the air. One day he meets a beautiful woman (Vera Farmiga) in an airport bar, she accompanies him back to his room and they have sex. They meet from time to time, when it's mutually convenient to indulge themselves. Finally he invites her to his sister's wedding and he begins to believe there is something more happening than just convenient sex. She has a secret that will ultimately turn him back into an empty firing automaton. At the same time a young woman (Anna Kendrick) shows up at his company with an internet strategy for firing people. In other words, let's make the process less human, more abstract. She becomes his protege. He wants to keep the firing process what its always been, she wants to make it less personal. He wins this battle, but they lose the war - he in his relationship with his occasional lover, she with the job.

The movie appears to be in touch with a contemporarily high unemployment rate. But it's effectively empty. None of the three main characters is worth rooting for. Sure there are some laughs, really fine performances but at its heart (which it doesn't have) Up in the Air is an almost empty two hours.

Up in the Air will almost surely be nominatec for an Oscar - it was chosen the best film of 2009 by the National Board of Review, it captured six Golden Globe nominations But it was left out of the list of movies receiving nominations for their ensemble casts, Screen Actors Guild's equivalent of a best picture award. Instead, the SAG nominating committee opted for "Inglorious Basterds" and "Precious" along with Sony Pictures Classics' British period drama "An Education," Summit's Iraq War film "The Hurt Locker" and the Weinstein Co.'s Roman disaster of a musical "Nine."

If you want to see how totally cannibalistic capitalism can be, Up in the Air will show you.

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