What makes a truly great film? Identification with the characters, believability of the plot? Insinuating yourself to be a part of the scenario? Perhaps becoming uncomfortable when it gets close. All these things apply to “Up in the air”, possibly the best film of the year if you don’t get too close to it.
Escape to The Road has been a theme since Hope and Crosby in the 40s, Jack Keroac in the 50s, Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) in the 60s, Jack Nicholson (Five Easy Pieces) in the 70s, The Road Warrior in the 80s, Thelma & Louise in the 90s, and now finally the saga of The Road sterilized to an air path and sanitized to a credit card swipe. An inverted world where airlines honor the loyalty of anonymous customers and employers jettison the contributions of long-term employees.
The emotional desolation of the prime character (George Clooney) fits the isolation of the road nicely since his job is to spread his own isolation to others as professional “Downsizer” (firing people for a living). The inverted life style of less is more and dipping his barren tentacles into the stark terror of those losing their jobs eventually drives his female associate (masterfully played by Anna Kendrick) to suicidal depression. Clooney thrives on it.
Clooney develops a literally “on the fly” relationship with fellow compulsive traveler Vera Farmiga, a female version of himself. Clooney reluctantly finds himself drawn to probably the first “meaningful” relationship in his life and is shocked to find his previous crutch of cynicism pulled out from under him. (no spoilers intended).
Those “let go” employees were actually filmed as they were told the bad news; their reactions are real (they signed waivers). Possibly some of the most uncomfortable scenes ever filmed. Writer / Director Jason Reitman, (Juno and Thank You For Smoking) masterfully weaves the characters together finding the lure, and then apart as they ultimately react to the reality of the road as panacea for the alone and lonely.
Read the reviews. The film really is that good.
It gets five of five carbon fiber loyalty award cards.