Friday, March 5, 2010

Oscar Preview Review: Up in the Air (2009)

What I said before Cinewise:

Co-written and directed by Juno (2007) helmer Jason Reitman, Air is very much akin to The Graduate (1967) in that it’s quiet, whimsical and contemplative, and filled with strong characters and great dialogue. It’s also a coming of age story, a film about taking chances and finding your place in the world...only this time the hero is a middle-aged George Clooney.

Broken down and isolated by a career spent traveling the country firing people (he’s the guy the corporations bring in to clean up their mess), Clooney’s Ryan Bingham is essentially homeless. The planes and airports and rental cars and hotels are the only things close to providing home comforts, and that’s every bit as sad as it sounds. Only Ryan doesn’t see it that way – he’s empowered by his lifestyle. He believes it’s his “place.” The goal of Up in the Air is to challenge that belief, for Ryan to determine if he’s right or wrong, and to leave room for both possibilities.

Intricate in its simplicity, Reitman’s film is equal parts bitter and sweet, and finds a rare crowd-pleasing formula in that concoction. Clooney’s surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, including Vera Farmiga (The Departed, 2007) as a commiserating traveler and Anna Kendrick (Twilight series) as his reluctant protégé. Combined with the story’s quirky but excellent journey and focus on the pleasures of connecting through humanity, the true brilliance in Reitman’s film can be found in its ability to leverage these characteristics toward building a cinematic “comfort zone” in a film that explores just what that term even really means

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