Sunday, 17 January 2010
Up in the Air
Jason Reitman's third film, and first since his breakout hit Juno, is an enjoyable, quality production in classical Hollywood style, with George Clooney perfectly cast and complemented by terrific support performances from Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga. Clooney is Ryan Bingham, a man who makes his living by firing employees for clients across America, and spends most of his time flying from state to state, ensuring that he never has to maintain meaningful relationships with family or friends. He exists alone and likes it that way. The fact that we don’t instantly hate him is due to Clooney’s charmingly self-aware performance and director Jason Juno Reitman’s skill in getting the tone of the film just right. It’s light and easygoing, but there’s depth and reality to each of the characters, right down to a heartbreaking single-scene appearance from JK Simmons, which takes us right into his character’s life in a few brief moments.
Kendrick plays a new employee shaking things up in Bingham’s industry, while Farmiga, clicking with Clooney in all the right ways, is Bingham’s equal and opposite. The way Reitman brings these three characters together is skilful and supremely entertaining. As with Juno, the director demonstrates his ability to not only understand the touchstones of contemporary life in the Western world, but to get beneath these characters’ surfaces – particularly Clooney and Kendrick – in ways that are believable and insightful. The film is also very funny, and while the final third lacks the grace and ease of the first 70 minutes, Up in the Air is a wonderful example of grown-up mainstream cinema.