Movie Review: Up in the Air (2009)

TitleUp in the Air
Release Date: December 4, 2009
Director: Jason Reitman
Production Company: Dreamworks Pictures

Ryan Cunningham (George Clooney) is a frequent business traveler who has become an expert in the ins and outs of air travel and enjoys the perks of loyalty reward programs [NOTE: this means lots of product placement for air carriers, hotel chains, and rental car companies]. His job is to work as a consultant who does the face to face work of firing employees and preparing them for their new job search, a job that is unspeakably awful although Ryan has a strong ethic for doing it as sympathetically as possible. Along his travels he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), another frequent flier, and they agree to meet up for casual romance when their itineraries cross.

Back at the home office in Omaha, Ryan’s boss informs him that a new young hire Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) has come up with an idea to fire people through videoconferencing thus eliminating travel costs.  Before the transition, Ryan takes Natalie out on the road to mentor her in his way of doing things.  Having to travel together makes each of them begin to question their life choices.  Ryan also goes to his sister’s wedding despite being distant from his family, and brings Alex along as his guest and begins considering a more committed lifestyle.

This movie goes to pains to show that Ryan’s live as a frequent traveler is bad, although I’m not quite convinced that someone could not be happy enjoying that life if they chose to.  Obviously they make it bad by having Ryan doing a terrible job, never keeping in touch with his sisters, and when he finally realizes he has feelings for Alex, making her a philanderer (the most unbelievable part of this movie is that any woman would agree to go as a date to a family wedding and not mention that she has a husband and children).  Despite this central flaw, this is still an entertaining movie with some funny bits and some touching bits.  Cooney, Farmiga, and Kendrick are all talented and charming actors, so they really make the movie.

Rating: ***