Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The stratospheric status of "Up in the Air"

This is always a great time of year for movies. And I've now seen what up to this point is the best movie of the year. Up In The Air has stellar buzz and a crystal clear and 'sleek as far as the horizon is wide' style. In this case, however, it is truly worth the accolades.

George Clooney is at his most spot-on approximation of the legendary Cary Grant as he slinks entirely into the role of Ryan Bingham. He's impeccable. Vulnerable. It's almost as if he were dancing throughout the movie. Unlike almost any other actor - male or female - I think the world has a collective crush on Clooney. But all that optical surface quality misses something larger that I think is the real point of this movie. Clooney inhabits a peerless, devastating position in this otherwise sad, sanitized climate of a movie. Plenty of other reviewers have talked about the timely nature of the story, given our current economic malaise. I believe that misses the larger point by about half.

Much is being made of how Clooney's character has the unenviable task of firing people on behalf of heartless corporations — most squeamishly portrayed during a scene that is meant to take place in Detroit. The people being "let go" look almost entirely like the frighteningly real jobless. Well, that's because they largely were. Director Jason Reitman employed many of them in the roles, playing, in effect, themselves, with the obvious exceptions of J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis. Even the end of credits song came from a laid-off worker who wrote about his own soul-numbing experiences. Ballsy.

But aside from all that "it's tough out there" shorthand, this whip smart movie is about survival. It shows how even the stainless, elevated, beautiful people maybe just don't know what's going on out there in the big, wide, oft-traveled world any longer. The point is that we're all nihilists, I might even leap to argue. At the very least we're meant to imagine that we're all vulnerable. And if we take the time to listen to this very smart film, we can all maybe sit in that chair across from Clooney wondering what's next. 

My rating - a full A.  I believe this movie will be tough to watch for all manner of people.  Get comfortable before doing so.  Bring a chocolate bar.  Take a walk afterward.  If you can, hold someone's hand or call a friend beforehand just to say "hey".  But see it.  If you've got a pick for a better movie this year, I'm glad for you.

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