By Fred Topel | Images property of Paramount Pictures
Up in the Air
I probably got the wrong message from Up in the Air. You’re probably supposed to think that this is an unfulfilling life and should be considered tragic. I thought it was about how you can make something positive out of it. Even if you’re on the go, self-sustaining and work in a negative field, you can do a little good. So that maybe wrong, but I still liked Up in the Air.
Review: Up in the Air
It’s got a Thank You For Smoking vibe in the way it explains Ryan Bingham (George Clooney)’s job. The editing is high energy covering all the disgruntled possibilities of people Bingham has to fire, his suitcase prep routine and his efficient airport security process.
I’m always fascinated by the secret industries we don’t know about. Firing people is a real industry that needs rules and sustaining systems, no matter how distasteful the product may be. It takes on a Training Day vibe when Bingham has to show his young successor, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), the ropes.
I get the irony. He’s benefiting from the financial crisis. He’s buying into the artifice of connections that businesses sell us. I don’t think he’s delusional though. He does make real connections, especially bonding over travel things with Alex (Vera Farmiga).
I think it’s important to note the realities the movie portrays. Racial stereotypes are still true at airports. We want to believe things are better, but they’re not. You still have to deal with the way things actually work. The characters have honest conversations where their feelings contradict what they’re “supposed to” think. That’s a message that really needs to be out there. Idealism is fine, but what if you just want something that’s not the most proud scenario?
I feel a great importance to the technological message. Personally, I’ve benefited greatly from things like media moving online, and I certainly appreciate what it cost the people who came before me. Already I see new technologies threaten to change things even further. It’s not the part of the story that gets resolved. It’s just the backdrop so I hope someone picks up the ball from here. At the very least, they have a nice way of showing the faint connections you feel via flirting over text, and the technology comes back to haunt Natalie in a karmic way.
Visually I like the simple aesthetic. God, after so much shaky cam, a whole movie of locked off close-ups is great. It works for the chain of firings, and there is still effective visual language. You see things that explain profound situations without laying out for you “This is what is going on and this is why it’s important.”
I bet there’s a much more depressing movie to be made about the guy who has this job and isn’t charming and good looking. That’s a real downer for people who aren’t George Clooney to deal with. Luckily, we get the movie with its sh*t together. I also can’t wait for the porno version, Up the B*** in the Air.