Some movie-buffs said, if you think drama movies are suck, try watching “Up in the Air”. This idea has never come across my mind, but for me “Up in the Air” is a good proof that a drama-comedy can turn out to be both heart-pleasing and entertaining. Jason Reitman, as both the director and the screenwriter of this movie, is the guy behind two other popular drama-comedy: “Thank You For Smoking” and “Juno”. Let’s see what makes “Up in the Air” could be placed as one of his bests.
Adapted from a novel by Walter Kirn, “Up in the Air” is a journey of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) flying from one place to another place. He travels around the country doing his job: firing people from their companies. Ryan is an independent man; he never wants to make a long-term relationship with either a woman or his family. At an occurrence, he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) who is a nice woman Ryan easily falls into. As they continue their long-distance affair, a fresh-graduate named Nat Keener (Anna Kendrick) starts working on Ryan’s company, reorganizes the company’s procedure, and grounds Ryan from flying around like he used to be.
“Up in the Air” is opened by a chic opening title design, containing some scenery photos taken from up in the air, with the support of song “The Land is Your Land” by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, which is very ear-catchy. This first glimpse is enough to give the impression that “Up in the Air” is an “adventurous tale” of a flamboyant man named Ryan Bingham who spends most of his days in a year to fly from one place to another. I love seeing how Jason Reitman combines the dramatic and comedic part in a subtle way. Flows so naturally. Meaningful value of life and horrible laughs are coming back to back as viewers watch this movie, like there are barely transitions in between these two moods.
But, more than just a drama-comedy, “Up in the Air” is rich. Not only about Ryan’s principle of life—which he applies as his career-transition motivational seminar “What’s in your bag”, “Up in the Air” is also about family, adultery romance, career life, and life-planning. “Up in the Air” is about how a person holds a principle of his life wholeheartedly and, just like how I have predicted by the middle part of the movie, suddenly throws the principle out of his life just because of simple things. Perhaps the richness may make “Up in the Air” looks a bit talky and covers too much, but fortunately it is also massive. That said, if I were to describe “Up in the Air”, I would choose to write about it in some sentences instead of just one.
It is obvious to see that the characterization of each roles is one big factor that makes “Up in the Air” more than just worth watching. For me, Ryan Bingham, Nat Keener, and Alex Goran are fresh and original. Perhaps these three characters are not that ground-breaking, but they are all very interesting to see. So, “Up in the Air” is not only a one-man show of George Clooney because the supporting characters are also nice. It is, at last, rich not only because of the story, but also because of the characters. It is far from being empty inside, making the plot feels so dynamic. It’s like we see a piece of biographic story of a character (in this case, Ryan Bingham). Maybe there are parts where the backgrounds of each main characters are less prominent, but from the least the movie shows to us, it is a nice work.
And, of course, the actors are great, too. Well, I think there’s no other actors could portray Ryan Bingham as greatly as George Clooney. He suits Ryan Bingham both from the appearance and the personality. More than that, “Up in the Air” also pushes Clooney to show the fragile side of a tough man like Ryan, and he really nails it. Vera Farmiga is, well, sexy (and it is quite heart-breaking for me to know that Alex’s nude scene is done by a body double, not by Farmiga herself due to her post-pregnancy). She plays Alex so maturely, so naturally. Anna Kendrick, in the other side, is another attention-stealer. Nat is totally the opposite of Alex; Nat is sincere, mawkish, and brittle. It becomes interesting to see how Nat and Ryan fires people, because while Ryan looks steadfast and rigid, Nat drifts with her emotional side.
Finally, “Up in the Air” is a complete package of what qualified drama-comedy is supposed to be. It is dramatic, it is romantic, it draws laughter, and it inspires us with something valuable. Good actors and music are complementary for this rich and massive story of life. Well made.
▲ Rich values, original characters, good acting by the three main roles
▼ A bit massive and covers too much
UP IN THE AIR | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2009 RATING Rated R for language and some sexual content RUNTIME 109 min GENRE Drama, Romance CAST George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton WRITER Walter Kirn (novel), Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner (screenplay) DIRECTOR Jason Reitman MORE INFO