It was a series of mishaps that led to me seeing this film, I don't think I would have watched it otherwise. I had originally intended on seeing 'It's Complicated' with my Mum - she will only watch romcoms and feels 'cheated' if the story isn't neatly wrapped up in a happy ending, so a bit of Meryl Streep getting it on with her ex-husband seemed to fit the light-humoured bill. However, we arrived at the cinema a little late to find that a lot of other people had had the same idea and there weren't any seats left! Quickly scanning for any films that were starting soon I noticed 'Up In The Air' and vaguely remembered an advert featuring George Clooney on a plane. There isn't a mother-pleaser on Earth quite like George Clooney, so I figured he was a safe bet.
Expecting a run of the mill romantic comedy I settled comfortably into my seat for a couple of hours of perfectly nice, if predictable, viewing. But I didn't get it. In fact, when the credits finally rolled I actually felt a little sad and confused. Directed by Jason Reitman, who created the much loved 'Juno', there are quite a few quirky touches, as well as some great scenic shots and some comedy moments that ring true to real life. So what is it about? Well, George Clooney plays the part of Ryan Bingham - high flying corporate businessman? Sort of. Sure, he's got a lot of airmiles, not to mention an impressive collection of loyalty and reward cards for hotels and car hire companies, but the job that has fuelled this collection isn't exactly glamorous. Ryan Bingham works for a company that bosses hire to fire their employees, they try to put a positive spin on redundancy and persuade whichever unlucky soul they are talking to that everything they need to carry on can be found in a handy information pack. As everyone knows, Clooney's good looks and velvety smooth voice make him a perfect calming influence, but it is not the job that he loves, Ryan himself says it is when he is in the airport and on the plane that he is 'home'.
While jumping the queues with a loyalty card and flying business class has a certain amount of prestige and comfort, it's true, but even Clooney can't sell recycled air, plane food and living out of a bag as being a great way to live. The real aspect of his lifestyle that Ryan loves is the fact that being on the move means he makes no ties - to people or places. When your closest relationship is to an automated welcome message voice, you are untouchable. What would cause a person to want to live like this? That's a little hazy; the snapshots of disjointed family life show how Ryan has distanced himself from his two sisters (the elder of which is a rather angry, masculine creature) and hints suggest that the family dynamic has gone pear-shaped since the death of their parents. This is a really sad aspect of Ryan's life, which, by the end outweighs the positives of his seemingly carefree, comfortable existence.
Ryan's solitary way of life is shaken up, first by meeting Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a travelling businesswoman who claims to be 'the female version' of him; she's pretty, sexy, and the only person Ryan seems willing to keep in touch with. The biggest bombshell, however, is when Ryan's only constant - his work - decides to save money and keep its employees grounded so they can fire people via webcam. The great thinker behind this move is a young, uptight, business-minded if naive young woman, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who may as well be Ryan's opposite. She looks for spending cuts, the use of technology, and believes in love, marriage and settling down; everything Ryan is against. Through an ill-matched business pairing, the two manage to learn a lot from each other. That, and the fact that Natalie's dreamy view of love is shattered when she gets dumped via text message. Well, at least it wasn't Facebook!
The film is full of genuine laughs and sentiment, and shows the different ways modern life - technology, putting your job first, lack of family values - has on the traditional idea of romance. All of these make it very different from your average romcom. So too does the bittersweet taste you're left with when you leave the cinema. But, at least my mum didn't feel totally cheated by it.
Up In The Air - 3.5/5