Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Up in the Air" is heavy hearted food for thought

I have seen (on average) a movie a week this year. I go alone, I review to no one in particular and I enjoy the journey, good or bad of escapism in the form of an empty, dark theatre. Lately, I've watched "Avatar", "Precious", "It's Complicated", "Boys are back", "Twilight", "Every body's Fine" and on and on. I can not compare any of them to "Up in the Air". Jason Reitman (director of Juno) has done it again.

I must say off the bat, it is a sad movie. It is not going to send you bouncing out of the theatre, give you a new lease on life, or make you want to run out and kiss someone. The simple premise is in and of itself depressing: A man travels 320 days a year as a hired-third party that restructures companies and fires people. What makes this movie a gem to me is all the captured emotions, and opposing views on life. Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) the young girl (someone I totally would have recognized in the mirror when I was 22- No joke her wardrobe was created from my closet in 2000-2002) over-confident in the idealism of life plans, love and the pursuit of success coupled with Ryan Bignham( George Clooney's character) unimpressed by companionship and love, make for some huge laughs. So much is spoken between them circumstantially, and in the facial expressions.

What I find even more moving about this movie is the honesty with which the lives are portrayed. The loneliness, and absolute confusion and second-guessing with which we all live our lives. Overall disappointment and the beautiful freedom found when letting go of expectations... Expectations of what we think we need, want and even our expectations of what we think others should want. It is heavy. The side story of Ryan (Clooney) and Alex (Vera Farmiga) starts off sweet and endearing with all the beaming qualities of mature adults choosing singledom over commitment, and ends a little more murky than expected.

It is a little dreary at times, but with every moment you feel sadness creeping over you like a deep fog, something charming happens. Young, Anna Kendrick calls Clooney out as "building a cocoon of self-alienation." Going on to tell him that he builds his life in such a way that makes it impossible for him to ever really get close to anyone, yet when he finds a women insane enough to run the gauntlet of his obnoxious world, and make it to the other side smiling, he doesn't even have the decency to label the relationship as anything better than "casual." "You re a teenager!" She yells.

Even better are the profoundly poignant moments between the college grad and Clooney's love interest. (Farmiga) Youth has a way of being so ignorant and bold at the same time, yet the female-protector comes out and instead of berating Anna on her naivete, she encourages her with honest interpretations of a woman in her mid-30's and the difference between "settling" and choosing what matters more. The screen ruminates with a maternal and compassionate quality from Farmiga. Without it, the movie might not have soared so well.

I'm not even touching base on Clooney's family, the hardship and pain of the people getting fired (which some were cast/edited from a documentary of REAL people recently let go), and the humor that Jason Bateman brings to each scene he is in. Overall the movie isn't a feel good show, but it reminds us of our innate drive to connect with people. It leaves you wistful of the bliss of having so much time ahead of you to waste on pretentious self-goals, and keeps you focused on making the most of what you have and could have now. Clooney's lone-wolf life has some redeeming points...avoiding all the "arguments, negotiations, and endless compromise" of relationships, and the his simple view of "I don't see the value" in marriage and having kids. But, somehow, as self-sufficient and free his life seems, he is underwhelmed. Perhaps, no more than a happily married couple who finds themselves married for 10 years, which is what makes this movie so great and relatable.

Here is the trailer:

See it. ( I did twice.) Its remarkably touching, beautifully written dialogue, giggle worthy, and sure to leave you contemplating what love, life, connection, coupling off and human nature means to you.

PS: Great song from the movie: "Help Yourself" by Sad Brad Smith.

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