Up in the Air

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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:01 pm

flipp525 wrote:Farmiga has a very natural style of acting. I look forward to her getting more visibility in the industry after this film.

In the meantime you can catch up with two of her even better performances in last year's Nothing But the Truth and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas or re-watch her in The Departed.

Farmiga is always an interesting actress and she's very good here but another problem I had with the film was her character, which doesn't ring true to me in the final scenes. Without getting into spoiler territory, let me just say that the things she keeps to herself are not the things someone is likely to keep hidden in real life. They do, however, serve the plot and provide her with a killer of a final scene.

Clooney, on the other hand, has never been better and Kendrick is a real find.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 26, 2009 3:46 pm

kaytodd wrote:I agree with Magills that the final scene is a phony movie moment.

Actually I was referring to his last lecture scene. I didn't have a problem with the final scene.

I don't know for sure since I tend to get them mixed up myself, but think you have Danny McBride and Zach Galifianakis confused.
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Postby flipp525 » Sat Dec 26, 2009 12:12 pm

I can't say that the conceit of this film was exactly hitting home for me, but I really found Up in the Air to be one of the more enjoyable film experiences I've had this Oscar season. The pacing of the film is so successful and the multi-city scene staging (with its "hotel/business" art direction) creates such a lofty sense of "ungroundedness" -- key for the audience to align themselves with Ryan Bingham.

Big Magilla hated the opening aerial shots with "This Land is Your Land", but I found the sequence to be a nice entrance into this world. First off, I appreciate the fact that directors are bringing back opening credits (The Blind Side, which I saw the night before, did the same thing). It's not something I necessarily need to see with every new movie, but I'll admit that until I saw them this past weekend, there was something I'd missed about them; in this case, it was exciting to know that Tony-nominee Amy Morton would be popping up at some point. And there was nothing third-rate about those vocals -- what a fun rendition of a song that everyone knows. The "Help Yourself" song was used to similar success towards the end of the film (is that a potential Best Original Song nominee?)

George Clooney has never been more suited to a role. It was a perfect melding of an actor's personality with character. The dramatic gravitas entrusted in this character was not lost in what could've been (but wasn't) a surface-y portrayal. He did a wonderful job of letting down the facade and showing us the pain that comes along with the choices he's made in life. And that 11th hour almost-Hollywood ending was kind of devastating.

Part of what makes his such an enjoyable performance is the interplay with Vera Farmiga (Alex), an actress I'm not terribly familiar with, but who gives such a natural, appealing performance as Clooney's female counterpart in life, she brings his performance to another level of believability entirely (I AM surprised that this missed out on a Best Ensemble nod at the SAGs -- the interplay between all the principals was stellar). Farmiga has a very natural style of acting. I look forward to her getting more visibility in the industry after this film.

Anna Kendrick has the daunting task of being the film's do-gooder and "antagonist" (after all, she's ushering in a new era where Ryan and the part of his job he covets so much will become superfluous). However, she gives such an earnest performance, you're willing to begrudge her more annoying qualities. I appreciated how her body language almost seemed to reflect the way she was barely holding everything together at all times. She almost looked like she might collapse into a heap if you pushed a button on her back, like those childhood toys.

I didn't have the same verisimilitude issues with the idea of outsourcing terminations that have been cited. It eliminates the need for the entire film if you get stuck on that detail. Also, if you'll notice, the events of the film were set in the future (February 2010), so at the most basic level, we were in the realm of future fiction. I was willing to let certain things slide.

Awards prospects: Before going in, I was under the impression that Kendrick (albeit impressive) was the major threat to Mo'Nique's frontrunner status. However, after seeing it, I'm surprised that Farmiga hasn't been picking up more critics prizes. What a wonderful, star-making performance.

And Clooney seems like the kind of actor that Hollywood wouldn't mind having two Oscars, especially since no one can even remember what he won his first one for (Syriana, really?) A Best Picture win for this would not be a bad choice to round out the decade, although in other years it seems like it would just have been a solid nominee.

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Postby kaytodd » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:43 am

I liked this film a lot. A- from me. I am surprised it did not get a Best Ensemble nod from SAG. Clooney, Farmigia and Kendricks were all nominated and this has led to speculation that SAG members saw this film as having three strong principal performances but the cast overall was not strong.

If so, they are mistaken. The nominated performances are excellent as is their interplay among each other. But the scenes involving Clooney's family are also, as Magilla pointed out, very real and moving. The book goes into a lot of detail about Clooney's relationship with his family and how that history helped make him like his unattached lifestyle. The detail is not in the film but you can feel the history among Clooney and his sisters. Good work by Melanie Lyskey (the sister getting married) and Amy Morton (the older sister who tries to stay on top of family matters). Zach Galifianakis is also good in the small role of Lynskey's fiancee. His scenes with Clooney are funny and well done.

And Jason Bateman was a good choice for Clooney's boss who brought Kendricks in to make the change in company policy. Companies nowadays are bringing in younger people to teach "dinosaurs" like Clooney and Farmigia new ways of doing things. I have seen this myself with my employer. The attitudes of the younger employees and the veterans shown in the film looked real to me. And the professional actors who played some of the laid off employees (J.K. Simmons, Steve Eastin, Danny McBride, Adhir Kalyan) were also very good. Who was the black lady who threatened suicide? I assume she is a professional actress but I did not find her in imdb.

In other words, the entire ensemble is, IMO, excellent and merited a SAG nomination.

Magilla, you are right about a company not hiring an outside firm to fire people. I am not sure such companies exist. The book was written in 2001 during the tech bubble bust. I think Walter Kirn created the company for satirical reasons (I'll bet somebody has really thought about it, though.). The idea of firing people via the internet with prepared scripts continues the satire of corporate America.

Kendircks had just been hired by Clooney's company. She was offered a better job in San Francisco but took the job in Omaha because of her boyfriend. When that did not work out, she decided to try again for the better job.

I agree with Magills that the final scene is a phony movie moment. He now realizes what he has been missing out on all these years. Will he pick up his suitcase and get on the plane? Or will he look for a job where he can lay down roots? Of course it is up to us to decide what he does.
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Postby Reza » Thu Dec 24, 2009 6:32 am

I think I better avoid this film as I soon may be facing the situation, Magilla describes, in real life.

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Postby Big Magilla » Thu Dec 24, 2009 5:42 am

Now that I've had time to digest it, let me tell you what I really think about this film.

Some spoilers ahead, so quit reading now if you don't want to see them.

What I liked about the film:

The use of real-life people who have been laid off. The utter hopelessness that sets in is perfectly conveyed by the talking heads at the end.

The family life, or lack thereof, of Clooney's character, also very real.

What I didn't like:

The opening shots of U.S. topography as seen from a plane under the credits while a third rate vocal group sings "This Land Is Your Land" in cheesy monotone.

All those airport, hotel and car rental scenes. As someone who had to travel for business quite a bit I'll just say they did not bring back happy memories.

The lay-off scenes. As someone who had to perform lay-offs from time to time let me tell you they were not realistic at all. The reactions of the people being "let go" may have been, but not those of the people doing the "letting go".

First of all, no company I know of would hire someone from the outside to come in and tell people their they are being "let go". Sometimes in a large company an h.r. representative the people don't know will be there to help facilitate but the news is always delivered by someone the affected person knows. I had to do it with people one, two and three levels below me.

It's always a horrible thing to have to do, especially if you had no say in who goes. I could take the "why me"s and "this isn't fair"s but I couldn't take the hugs from the people telling me they knew it wasn't my fault. It affected me so badly the third time I had to do a mass lay-off (ten people) that I told my boss's boss the next time there is downsizing he can start with me because I refuse to go through that again. Fortunately I retired before the next one so he didn't have to call my bluff.

Layoffs are done following a general guideline but never with a prepared script in which the manager uses catch phrases like "look at this as an opportunity" or "this is the first day of the rest of your life" or the even worse pat dialogue Clooney and Kendrick are given to spout. And it's always done in person, never over a monitor. That idea was dead from the outset.


Clooney's walking off stage is a phony movie moment. In real life he would have either not gone on or forced himself to finish without entusiasm.

Kendrick's walking off the job when she learns that a woman she "let go" several weeks earlier had committed suicide. This is not a natural reaction. The natural reaction would be to have a bit of remorse but to tell yourself that it's not your fault. After a few of those you might not be able to take it any more but the way it's handled in the film is not realistic at all.

Outsourced, the clever comedy of a few years ago remains the best film on the subject. In it, Josh Hamilton plays the middle manager of a Seattle telemarketing company whose other employees are laid off and he has to go to India to train their replacements. There is a bittersweet surprise ending that only the most cynical among us could have seen coming.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Dec 23, 2009 5:40 pm

Of the three supposed front-runners at the moment, I'd say Avatar and The Hurt Locker have a better shot.

I agree. Up in the Air is looking more and more like Sideways than anything else. It's not tracking incredibly well and both my parents and my roommates don't really like it that much. It's a film that doesn't have the kind of emotional sucker-punch a Best Picture winner usually needs. I think a WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? backlash has begun.

I like all three more than Slumdog Millionaire.
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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:58 pm

I saw it with a small, geriatric audience st the early bird matinee today - the crowds were at Avatar and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel.

I'd say it's a lot more like Reitman's Thank You for Smoking than Juno. There were a few moments that made me smile but there is only one laugh out loud moment and that comes fairly early in the film.

It's a well made film but it's a sad testament to the movie year that this is (was?) considered the front-runner for Best Picture despite the nomination worthy performances of the three stars. Of the three supposed front-runners at the moment, I'd say Avatar and The Hurt Locker have a better shot.

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Postby Zahveed » Tue Dec 22, 2009 10:05 am

It opens wide this weekend, so I'll catch it eventually. Why does everything have to open all at once?
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Postby danfrank » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:53 am

For a movie that's considered a frontrunner for Best Picture, Up in the Air doesn't seem to be getting much attention on this board. Maybe folks aren't rushing off to see it. To me, it just doesn't feel like a "best picture" movie, the quality of the thing notwithstanding. I can't think of a best picture that has the feel of this one. It's a combination of smart-alecky funny (Reitman's apparent trademark) and sad.

The first half of the movie is mostly just Reitman trying to be clever and funny a la his other films. It works better here than in Thank You for Smoking, but still didn't impress me much. The second half of the film is much better because it becomes human, allowing us to see the real consequences of the Clooney character's choices. The good: the use of non-actors to play (most of) the people getting fired, terrific performances from the three principals (none of whom I would give an Oscar to, though), one really big laugh (you'll know it when it comes), and the choice to make the Vera Farmiga character Clooney's equal. The not-so-good: a couple of stupid forced movie moments (characters acting in public the way that only people in movies do), the dark-ish cinematography (Reitman and whoever the cinematographer is should have trusted the script to convey the dark themes present), and the over-the-top cleverness in the first half.

I don't begrudge this a best picture nomination, but have a hard time believing that enough people will think this is the best picture of the year. I sure don't, though I think it's a pretty good effort and represents growth on the part of Reitman.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Dec 14, 2009 3:09 pm

Well, call me middlebrow, but I thought this was a pretty wonderful movie. It reminded me a bit of The Accidental Tourist, both in its traveling milieu, and in the way that both movies happen to be very funny while at heart being deeply sad.

And sad it is! Perhaps the fact that I was out of work for several months this year made a lot of it resonate more with me, but I think the film, in its firing scenes, perfectly captures just how frightening and depressing unemployment can be. I can't imagine this not touching a chord with people from many walks of life.

But the movie also has a lot of big laughs, a lot of them courtesy of George Clooney, who has rarely been this appealing. Like some others here, I've found Clooney more a likable star presence than a tremendous actor, but he's rarely put that personal quality to better use than he does here. His Ryan Bingham is, at first, tremendously charming, but as the film goes on, there's a level of real heartbreak -- of life's opportunities missed -- that creeps into his performance. It's not a towering accomplishment, but it just might be my favorite of his performances.

I also really liked both supporting actresses. I have to admit I related a lot to the Anna Kendrick character -- a 23 year-old who thought she'd have had a lot more figured out by this point than she does. There's a real nervous, insecure vulnerability beneath her know-it-all facade. I think her big breakdown is, from a scripted standpoint, a little forced, but, she's really sweet and funny throughout, and is in many ways the heart of the film.

Vera Farmiga is an actress who I'm pleased to see rising in the world. When I first saw her in Down to the Bone -- a mostly dreary film -- a couple years ago, I thought she had possibilities, and this is her best work yet. The scene when she tells Kendrick's character that when you reach a certain age, you stop worrying about certain things PERFECTLY captures the difference between how people of different ages think about their careers/lives. (I've experienced this a lot at work lately, where all I can think about is moving up in the world, while I have trouble fathoming how my older coworkers seem mostly content in their not-too-appealing jobs.) She's wise, sassy, and not just a little bit worn down -- she manages to make her character truly affecting even when Alex does some rather cruel things.

The device of the photographs (of Ryan's sister and fiancee) wasn't tremendously subtle, but it was effective in highlighting the contrast between Ryan (who travels everywhere but lives his life alone), and the rest of his family (who can't travel anywhere but share companionship.)

I wasn't prepared for how pleasingly melancholy the film's ending was -- I was sure once Clooney realized the error of his ways, he'd run all the way to Vera Farmiga's smile. But instead we get a conclusion that's rather heartbreaking, for many of the characters. Those looking for faux uplift certainly won't find it here. (Though I do think the film is a little harsh on the Farmiga character -- she might have been a little more apologetic for the havoc she causes.)

I have to admit, Jason Reitman has exceeded my initial expectations as a director considerably. I couldn't much stomach the smug, unfunny Thank You for Smoking. Juno was a step up -- funny and entertaining -- but I can't say I found it any kind of directorial accomplishment. Up in the Air's strength is its script, but Reitman has managed to create a very witty yet human film, and I have to give him credit here even if he's not a full-blown auteur.

Re: Oscars. Obviously, it's a top contender, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it win Picture AND Director. Along those lines, I'd like to note that many predictors across the web seem to be forecasting an Up in the Air/Bigelow Oscar split. I have to say that I find this outcome rather unlikely. Jason Reitman is a son of Hollywood whom folks in the industry really want to see succeed. And while Bigelow is dominating critics' prizes, it's far more likely for a populist Best Picture frontrunner to pull along its non-auteur director to a statue than for a split to occur so the critics' fave can snag the director prize. (On the other hand, I do wonder if calls for a woman to win Best Director could complicate the situation considerably.)

I'd still vote The Hurt Locker the year's overall best of what I've seen -- and I'm thrilled to see it winning these critics prizes -- but I would have zero problem with Up in the Air winning Best Picture.

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Postby Greg » Fri Dec 04, 2009 8:58 pm

I just went to the official web site for Up In The Air; and, I have to say, the first few seconds of the intro makes me want to see it much more than the TV trailer.


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Postby Sabin » Fri Sep 11, 2009 7:43 pm

Jeffrey Wells (who's kind of an asshole) loves it. Either way, one of the ten.

Calmly Touches Home

I've just seen the most eloquent, affecting and altogether best film of 2009...so far. Yes, better than my beloved The Hurt Locker. If it doesn't win the Best Picture Oscar next February...well, okay...I'll live. Jason Reitman will live, George Clooney will live, Paramount publicity will live, Brad Grey will live, your family and friends will live, and the sun will come up the next day.

But Up In The Air really has it all -- recognizable human-scale truth, clarity, smart comfort, the right degree of restraint (i.e., knowing how not to push it), and -- this got me more than anything else -- a penetrating, almost unnerving sense of quiet.

This is one of the calmest and most unforced this-is-who-we-are, what-we-need and what-we're-all-afraid-of-in-the-workplace movies that I've ever seen. From an American, I should say. (The Europeans have almost made job-anxiety films into a genre -- i.e., Laurent Cantet's Time Out, etc.) But I would guess that Up In The Air will play very, very well in Paris. It's a film that walks and talks it and knows it every step of the way. Work, adulthood, asking the questions that matter, compassion, family, stick-your-neck-out, etc. The whole package. With an almost profound lack of Hollywood bullshit and jerk-offery. And a kind of Brokeback Mountain-y theme at the finale -- i.e., "move it or lose it."

Up In The Air doesn't tell you what to feel -- it lets you feel what it is. All the best movies do that. They don't sell or pitch -- they just lay it down on the Oriental carpet and say to the viewer, "We've got a good thing here, and if you agree, fine. And if you don't, go with God."

You know what? The hell with that attitude. If you really watch and let this movie in and then say, as a friend of a good friend said after watching it in Telluride a few days ago, "I don't know...it's nice but it's more like an okay ground-rule double than a homer," then due respect but you're the kind of person who likes candied popcorn and Strawberry Twizzlers and feel-good pills. No offense.

Variety's Todd McCarthy called it "a slickly engaging piece of lightweight existentialism." That's an unfair and inappropriate characterization. There's a difference between lightweight and having the goods and taking it easy and laying it on gradually.

The thing that puts Up In The Air over is that it's about right effin' now, which is to say the uncertain and fearful Great Recession current of 2009. Reitman has been working on it for six years, and if it had come out last September -- just as the bad news about what those greedy selfish banking bastards had done was being announced and everyone started to mutter "uh-oh" to themselves -- it wouldn't be reflecting the cultural what-have-you as much as it is now. And yet it never alludes to anything that specific. It doesn't have to.

We all know about the story by now. Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a kind of lightweight Zen smoothie who specializes in gently firing people when their bosses are too chicken to do it themselves. He doesn't just like travelling around in business class seats and staying in nice hotels -- he relishes the sense of belonging and security that he gets from being constantly in motion and never digging into a life of his own. And it's easy to spot the arc -- i.e., will Ryan find some way to let go of skimming along and maybe go for a little soul infusion?

The basic story propellant comes from two women who represent a certain kind of change/growth/threat element -- Alex (Vera Farmiga), a fellow traveller who's an exact replica of Bingham save for her sexuality, and with whom he strikes up a nice groove-on relationship in the film's beginning, and Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a hamster-sized junor exec type who 's sold Ryan's boss (Jason Bateman) on whacking people through a video conferencing system rather than face-to-face.

But I don't want to get into the story more than that. What happens, happens for the right reasons. The main thing is that none of the developments feel the least bit ungenuine. And I will square off with anyone who says the ending isn't sufficiently "happy." Anyone who doesn't realize that Clooney is quite another man and open to the next good thing at the finale simply hasn't been paying attention.

There are many witnesses in this film a la Reds -- real-life people who've been laid off and are facing the abyss in more ways than one -- and I've already read complaints that Reitman overplays this card. I respectfully disagree. The clips appear symmetrically (i.e., at the beginning and end), and have an added weight at the finale. "Repetition" doesn't necessarily mean "repetitiously."

I'm really glad I caught Up In The Air at the beginning of the second wave -- i.e., immediately post-Telluride. By the time it comes out on 11.13.09 it'll be something else, and by that I mean the movie that snarkers will be looking to shoot down just to do that. Snarkers are so reprehensible. They pummel and flatten things down and rob them of their fresh-soil beauty.
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 06, 2009 6:50 pm

Hollywood Reporter...more along the lines we were led to expect.

Up in the Air -- Film Review
By Stephen Farber, September 06, 2009 07:02 ET
Bottom Line: Laughs and heartbreak meld seamlessly in this brilliant character drama.
Telluride Film Festival

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- Cynicism and sentiment have melded magically in movies by some of the best American directors, from Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder to Alexander Payne. Jason Reitman mined the same territory in "Thank You for Smoking" and his smash hit, "Juno," and it's pleasing to report that he's taken another rewarding journey down this prickly path in his eagerly awaited new film, "Up in the Air." Boasting one of George Clooney's strongest performances, the film seems like a surefire awards contender, and the buzz will attract a sizable audience, even though some viewers might be startled by the uncompromising finale.

Reitman embellishes Walter Kirn's acclaimed novel about a man who spends much of his life in the air, traveling around the country to fire people for executives too gutless to do the dirty job themselves. The character is just about as unsavory as the corporate pimp played by Jack Lemmon in Wilder's "The Apartment." When a character begins as such a sleazeball, you know there must be a moral transformation lurking somewhere in the last reel. That redemption never quite arrives for Clooney's Ryan Bingham, which is one of the things that makes "Air" so bracing.

Before the movie plunges into deeper waters, it seduces us with some of the most darkly hilarious moments to grace the screen in years. Clooney's crack comic timing makes the most of Ryan's acrid zingers as he savors a life without the vaguest threat of commitment. Trouble arises when his boss hires a young dynamo, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who has the idea of cutting costs by instituting a program of firing people over the Internet instead of in person.

Ryan sees his footloose lifestyle threatened, but he is forced to take Natalie on a cross-country odyssey to train her in the niceties of delivering bad news deftly. The interplay between the world-weary Ryan and the naive Natalie makes for delicious comedy, and Kendrick plays her role smoothly. There's also a wonderful performance by Vera Farmiga as Alex, a dynamo who clicks with Ryan because she's also seeking no-strings sex on the run. ("Think of me as you with a vagina," Alex tells Ryan helpfully.)

Eventually, Ryan begins to question the assumptions that have ruled his life. His encounters with Alex and Natalie threaten his complacency. We can't help worrying that the film may take a sentimental turn, but miraculously, it never does. A scene in which Ryan returns home for a family wedding and talks a reluctant groom (well played by Danny McBride) into going through with the nuptials is a beautifully modulated sequence that manages to be poignant without ever falling into slop. Reitman is a rare director with heart as well as sardonic humor, but he always knows when to pull back. There is only one false note -- a montage sequence near the end in which several of the people fired by Ryan burble about their love for their families -- that simply restates the obvious.

But if this tiny gaffe reveals a touch of insecurity on Reitman's part, the rest of the film is perfectly controlled. The entire cast is splendid. A couple of "Juno" alumni pop up: Jason Bateman is the smarmy boss who makes Ryan look humane, and J.K. Simmons has a single scene that proves just how much a master actor can convey in two or three minutes of screen time.

The razor-sharp editing by Dana Glauberman gives the film a breezy momentum even while it's delivering piercing social insights. Holding everything together is Clooney, who bravely exposes the character's ruthlessness while also allowing us to believe in his too-late awakening to the possibilities he's missed. It's rare for a movie to be at once so biting and so moving. If Ryan's future seems bleak, there's something exhilarating about a movie made with such clear-eyed intelligence.

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 06, 2009 5:43 pm

McCaarthy sees it as a bit less weighty than was being buzzed, but he's certainly positive.

Up in the Air

The tale of an aloof, high-flying exec whose millions of frequent-flyer miles can't keep him permanently above the emotional turbulence he seeks to avoid, “Up in the Air” is a slickly engaging piece of lightweight existentialism highlighted by winning turns from George Clooney and Vera Farmiga. Just as “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno” did in their own ways, Jason Reitman's third film cleverly taps into specific cultural aspects of the contemporary zeitgeist, although in a somewhat less comically convulsive manner. Unlike many of the characters onscreen, nobody is going to lose any jobs on the basis of their work here, as a buoyant commercial flight lies ahead.
Clooney has scarcely ever been more magnetic onscreen than he is here as Ryan Bingham, a gun-for-hire who specializes in the dirty work some corporate bosses don't like to do themselves, firing employees. He's great at his job, expert at suggesting to devastated workers that new horizons in life can now be explored, and he loves the lifestyle of spending most of his time in business class seats and upscale hotels; given that, at last count, he's on the move 322 days per year, his modest apartment in Omaha resembles an undecorated motel room.

Having adapted Walter Kirn's novel with Sheldon Turner, Reitman generates much merriment in the way he lays out the particulars of Ryan's m.o. Ryan delivers occasional motivation speeches on how you should be able to fit all that's important to you into a backpack, and he practices what he preaches by traveling with just one carry-on bag. He receives top-level, members-only treatment at airports, car rental desks and hotels and, picking up a like-minded woman, Alex (Farmiga), in a lounge one night, impresses her by revealing he's very close to achieving 10 million-mile frequent-flyer status.

Even though the central plot doesn't involve Alex, her easy-come, easy-go relationship with Ryan represents the heart of the movie, simply because the rapport between the two characters — and, causally, between the actors — is so terrific. It's not the hardest thing to write a seduction dance, but Reitman and the thesps keep the sex and keen sense of play between these two birds of a feather sparking through the entire running time, as the two keep working out ways to make their complicated schedules coincide. They're simply one of the most fun couples seen onscreen in many a moon.

But there's got to be a fly in the ointment, a bird in the engine, and her name is Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a grad-school know-it-all and high-tech whiz who convinces Ryan's boss, Craig (Jason Bateman), he can slash expenditures by firing people via video conferencing. Faced with a drastic lifestyle change at best and his own walking papers at worst, Ryan is ultimately obliged to accompany the humorless, pursed-lips hotshot on a tour to show her how he does it, and then attempt the changeover.

Reitman peppers the picture with montages of workers reacting to their sudden professional irrelevance; the incomprehension, fury, bewilderment, sense of injustice, hopelessness and despair with which these people express themselves is touching, honest and true, even if it is punched up for rhythmic and sometimes comic impact. These interludes obviously speak to modern times in a particularly pointed way, as does the fact that someone as accomplished, together and unimpeachable as Ryan could suddenly be perceived as a dinosaur due to a dubious technological advance.

The generational divide also gets a workout in the way the film humorously addresses the way the twentysomething Natalie sees the world, as opposed to the more seasoned perspectives of Ryan and Alex. Natalie thinks she has it all figured out, with career, relationship and life path all configured onto a timeline. For his part, Ryan believes he's got it all worked out as well, and he does, as long as he doesn't mind the lack of much human connection, not to even mention marriage or family, which he scoffs at as not for him. And perhaps they're not.

All the same, he's forced into an unanticipated degree of personal engagement when he attends the northern Wisconsin winter wedding of his younger sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), to regular guy Jim (Danny McBride). Bringing Alex along for fun, and just maybe because he feels something special for her, Ryan suffers the scorn of older sis Kara (Amy Morton) for having escaped the family ordinariness but also uses his mediating skills to put some difficulties right. But some final twists provoke a Peggy Lee is-that-all-there-is questioning that pretty much come with the territory of spending much of one's life alone.

Impeccably groomed and with a ready answer to almost any remark anyone can throw at him, Clooney owns his role in the way first-rate film stars can, so infusing the character with his own persona that everything he does seems natural and right. The timing in the Clooney-Farmiga scenes is like splendid tennis, with each player surprising the other with shots but keeping the rally going to breathtaking duration.

Kendrick has the difficult task of playing the spoilsport; you can't wait for her comeuppance, which is humorous when it does arrive. Complicating the animosity of Ryan and the viewer is the fact that Natalie is actually good at what she does, if still in need of life experience, which she begins to collect. Bateman's role could have used some layering to at least clarify his relationship with Ryan, as to whether it's personal or strictly professional.

Stunning overhead shots of numerous American cities provide sharp transitions as the characters zip around the country, although much of the action is played out on interchangeable airport-area locations. Production values are sparkling.

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