Leading the Golden Globes this year is the drama-comedy Up in the Air, the latest from Jason Reitman, the director of Juno. Much like Juno, Up in the Air is a light, entertaining and yet emotionally powerful film that offers great performances, an excellent script and a unique story.
Not quite a comedy and not quite a serious drama, and also not a romantic comedy even though it almost is, Up in the Air is one of the best movies of the year. Featuring stellar performances by George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, this may be the movie to beat come March.
Up in the Air is a legitimately likeable film, despite the legitimately sleazy profession on display. In the movie, Clooney stars as a man who spends his entire life flying around the country, laying off employees of client companies who are too afraid to do it themselves and delivering seminars on how to drop life’s baggage, including personal connections and loved ones. But when he is teamed with a young, ambitious, just-out-of-college girl (Kendrick) who has developed a system to lay off people over a video connection – effectively making Clooney obsolete – he finds his world upside down. As he begins to fall for another frequent flier (Farmiga), all of his principals are put to the test.
Clooney dominates the movie, and before people shrug off his performance as just another Clooney performance, think about this: Clooney plays one likable guy, despite the fact he basically cares about no one, tells others to care about no one and fires people for a living. That’s not easy to do, and Clooney does it seamlessly and effortlessly. This may be Clooney’s best performance to date.
Another star in the making, who I’ve had my eye on for a couple years now (ever since her excellent performance in Rocket Science), is Anna Kendrick, who is likely most recognizable as Bella’s only normal friend in the Twilight series. Kendrick is absolutely terrific, and at times even out-acts Clooney (most noticeably in a scene where her boyfriend breaks up with her over text message and she subsequently goes on to describe how her fragile life’s plan has been shattered). She is a legitimate star, and hopefully will be honored with a supporting nod at the Oscars.
Farmiga also is very good, though she has a smaller, more ordinary role.
The great thing is, “more ordinary” is the closest to “ordinary” Up in the Air gets. The movie succeeds not only due to its sharp script (written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner, based on a novel by Walter Kim) and strong performances but because it’s unconventional. The movie isn’t weird or offbeat; it simply is refreshingly different. It’s almost a romantic comedy, but it never goes the conventional route; while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it unpredictable, it is a movie that you don’t know how it’s going to progress.
Typically, my favorite genre – especially in the heart of awards season – is serious and depressing dramas. But aside from Precious, those dramas haven’t lived up to expectations this year. Up in the Air is not a movie I’d normally recommend for Best Picture, but it’s a leading candidate in my book for the time being.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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