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Reel Deal: 'Up in the Air' is Oscar worthy
Even though he is surrounded by people, Ryan Bingham lives a solitary life.
Three hundred and twenty two days of his year is spent in and out of airports, checking in and out of upscale hotels, dodging family gatherings and shunning any type of human connection, except for the occasional fling.
His primary job is pretty polarizing as well. He is contracted by companies to come out and fire their employees as they don't have either the heart or the guts to do so themselves.
When he has the occasional day off, he likes to give motivational speeches with the key lesson being to keep your life down to what you can fit into a backpack. After all, it's easier to move around without all that extra baggage.
He is not always likeable, but it's hard to hate him, and it's not just because he is portrayed by George Clooney, who gives another Academy Award-worthy performance. OK, that's a large part of the reason, but Ryan's motivational "pep talk" to the recently laid-off Bob (J.K. Simmons) put me in his corner for good. Rebirth indeed.
While touching down at his Nebraska-based company, he counters something that may put his cherished lifestyle, as well as his goal of reaching 10 million frequent flier miles, in jeopardy - a recent college graduate named Natalie Keener (played brilliantly by Anna Kendrick). While figuring out ways to save the company money, Natalie invents a software program where the frequent fliers like Ryan can fire people over the Web. As if being laid-off by someone you don't know isn't impersonal enough.
When Ryan objects to this new way of firing people, which will more than likely ground him indefinitely, his boss (Jason Bateman) tells him to take Natalie with him during his upcoming lay-off rounds so she can get true feel for what it is they do. In a way, she's like the audience; aware of what is going to happen, but unaware of the emotions you'll have while it's happening. Kudos to director Jason Reitman who placed ads in papers asking for recently laid-off people to give interviews for a "documentary." It's very real, completely heartbreaking, and oddly cathartic at the same time, much like "Up in the Air" as a whole.
Despite the content, this is not an entirely depressing movie. Reitman and Sheldon Turner penned a realistic and witty screenplay, but it's the performances (including the sultry Vera Farmiga who plays Ryan's human connection) that make "Up in the Air" truly captivating. A-
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.
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