Review: Up in the Air (TIFF)
PLOT: George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, a high living corporate axe-man, who makes his living flying from city to city firing people for bosses who don`t have the stomach to do it themselves. Bingham cherishes his life on the road, allowing him to enjoy a commitment free life, as well as the occasional tryst with women like Alex (Vera Farmiga). His lifestyle is jeopardized when his boss (Jason Bateman), hires a young IT expert named Nathalie (Anna Kendrick) who plans on using streaming video conferencing to make people like Ryan obsolete.
REVIEW: In the few short days since UP IN THE AIR premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the buzz on this film has been skyrocketing. It received wildly positive reviews, and the clever, recently released trailer also got people talking leading some to compare director Jason Reitman (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO) with luminaries like Billy Wilder.
Does it live up to the hype?
I`d have to say, hell yeah! While I agree that, on his third film, it might be a little premature to compare Reitman with a great like Wilder, it`s nonetheless quite the achievement- leaving him three for three. Basically, what Reitman has done is cross the DNA of his first two films to create this- which has the edge and wit of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, but also the heart of JUNO. I really think this has a chance to garnering a whole slew of Oscar nominations in January- not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.
Star George Clooney`s had a bit of a spotty track record at the b.o, as his films tend to be a little too challenging for many moviegoers. Even a borderline masterpiece like MICHAEL CLAYTON didn`t crack $50 million in the U.S, and as much as I loved THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, it`s probably a little too unconventional to catch on in a big way. UP IN THE AIR is a different story, as I firmly believe this is Clooney`s JERRY MAGUIRE.
Clooney`s really on fire here, as he`s really got himself a tailor made role that plays to all of his strengths. He gets to be acerbic, and cunning- while at the same time never loosing his charm, or likability. An early scene where he explains his routine at each airport he goes to illustrates perfectly that Clooney`s is really at the top of his game here. He almost dances through the scene, which is also cut very well to the lively score by Rolfe Kent (who also scored MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS)- and I wouldn`t be surprised if this ends up as Clooney`s Oscar clip (believe me- HE WILL be nominated). He really has a wonderful character to work with here, playing a guy who`s like a less tortured Don Draper. Women are REALLY going to love him here- as I believe this is the first time in a while where he actually gets to act out a full blown romance with his leading lady, and his chemistry with Vera Farmiga, who plays a fellow jet-setter who`s very much his female counterpart- is palpable, and compares to his work with Jennifer Lopez in OUT OF SIGHT.
As for the rest of the cast- it`s uniformly excellent. Farmiga is great as usual, and also shows off a bit of skin- which, I must admit, I certainly enjoyed- particularly a lovingly filmed shot of her delectable derriere. Another standout here is young Anna Kendrick, who plays Clooney`s nemesis turned firing protege. This is a tricky role, as her character starts off thoroughly unlikable, but Kendrick really manages to give the character some soul. Jason Bateman turns up in a smallish role as Clooney`s asshole boss (sporting a niftily scuzzy beard that fit the character perfectly). Usually he plays nice guys- so it`s nice to see him stretch. Reitman favorites J.K Simmons, and Sam Elliot also turn up in tiny parts- but they each get quality roles. Simmons in particular, manages in a brief five minute scene, to suggest a whole arc of growth for his character that proves what a truly great actor he is (although he still scares the crap out of me, as I always flashback to his prison rapist role on OZ). Funnymen Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis also pop up, although Galifianakis really only has a bit part, while McBride actually plays things fairly straight as the man engaged to marry Clooney`s onscreen sister- with their wedding playing an important role in the third act.
It has to be said, UP IN THE AIR is one hell of an accomplishment for Reitman, who, in three films, has managed to put himself in the same league as someone like Cameron Crowe. This is a masterful dramedy, with something for everyone- and I haven`t a doubt in my mind that it will set the box office on fire when it comes out in November. It really lives up to the hype, and if the rapturous response at the TIFF press screening has any say, the stream of accolades is not going to stop any time soon.
Other reviews from TIFF: MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS