Nepotism sucks. There is very little worse than the relative of somebody of means getting something simply by the fact that they had the good fortune to born in the right spot. Nepotism sucks. Unless your name happens to be Reitman in which case nepotism is a damn good thing. Hollywood producer / director Ivan Reitman’s baby boy Jason in his relatively young life had made two movies of note that we had seen in ‘Thank You for Smoking’ and ‘Juno’ and now we’ve head the pleasure of seeing a third Jason Reitman movie ‘Up in the Air’ which just might be his best yet. ‘Juno’ was pretty damn good though.
George Clooney is corporate axe man Ryan Bingham. Ryan flies all around the country 300 days a year firing people for corporations who don’t have the stones to fire these people themselves. Personally I’d be honored to have a Ryan Bingham type cat call me into an office and fire me because that would’ve probably meant I had a halfway decent job. Every time I’ve been fired, and there have been many of these times, I was simply called to the back of the restaurant where we did the fries, told to leave my apron and funny paper hat and asked never to come back.
But back on point, Ryan loves his job. Not the firing of people per se but the fact that it molds perfectly into his conception of a good life. He provides a service to society, he’s made good a providing this service and his somewhat different value set slides neatly into a life that enjoys travel, staying in different hotels, driving rental cars and having no real emotional ties to actual human beings.
Then a few things happen that throw a slight wrench into Ryan’s little perfect life. First he meets fellow road warrior Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) who appears to be his female doppelganger as the two form a fast and passionate relationship hooking up whenever their sky miles cross paths. Then his firm hires a young college grad in Natalie Keener
(Anna Kendrick) who threatens Ryan’s precious traveling life by streamlining the firing process into a video conferencing business. To assist young Ms. Keener in learning the business Ryan’s boss (Jason Bateman) has Ryan drag Natalie along on his road trips to show her how the business works, a situation which brings Ryan little pleasure. Then there’s the wedding of his little sister that he’s been desperately trying to avoid because Ryan really, really doesn’t like extended human contact.
But then… upon further review… maybe being around humans for more than brief fleeting moments isn’t all that bad. I mean this woman Alex is pretty damn awesome and the kid Natalie does makes some valid points about life and relationships. And having your family actually like you as opposed to being indifferent towards you isn’t such a bad feeling. Maybe it is time for Ryan to get off the road and settle down… or maybe not.
One thing about these movies that I’ve seen from Jason Reitman is that they are all incredibly well written. ‘Up in the Air’ is no different as Retiman’s script which was co-written by Sheldon Turner is sharp, smart, funny, witty, clever and any other kind of adjective that you can think of to describe the writing in this film. It’s a good thing that this script is so well written because this isn’t exactly a film filled with a lot of ‘action’ outside of following George Clooney around and it is also a movie that, at best, loosely adheres to the three act model.
But if you had to spend a couple of hours following a guy walking around airports, renting cars, checking into hotels and running his game on pretty women hanging out in hotel bars George Clooney would probably be near the top of that list of dudes to follow around. Clooney probably doesn’t get near the credit for being a good actor because he seems to do that thing he does so effortlessly, which I believe is the hallmark of a fine actor. Ryan Bingham isn’t anywhere near what most of us would consider a good person, though he’s not a terrible guy either, but Clooney draws you into the character and forces you to see things from his point of view and Clooney, at times, has the innate ability to make Ryan Bingham’s point view makes sense. And when something kinda bad happens to Ryan Bingham you kind of feel sorry for him. Kind of. Personally I was sitting in the theater advising Ryan that he really should call somebody before making unannounced visits. Take it from me… always call first.
Vera Farmiga is great in everything she does and we’ve never seen a ‘Twilight’ movie so we didn’t know who the hell Anna Kendrick was but we know who she is now. And as good as Anna Kendrick was in this movie we’re still not going to see ‘Twilight’.
‘Up in the Air’ is one fine film. It’s topical, cleverly written and well acted. I see where Jason Reitman’s old man is dusting off ‘Ghostbusters’ for 2012, assuming the planet earth is still around in 2012. Working on the assumption that the Mayan’s are wrong and that the incredibly ancient cast of ‘Ghostbusters’ all have had successful hip replacement surgery, Ivan might want to hire his Jason to bring that one in to the finish line. Like I said, I’m all for nepotism.