Up In The Air (2009)

UPDATE February 21: Up In The Air just won Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards.   CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

UPDATE February 2nd OSCARS NOMINATIONS:  Up In The Air has been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in the coming 82nd Academy Awards.  Jason Reitman gets a nod in the directing category, George Clooney in the Best Actor category, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for Best Actress.  Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner also received nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

UPDATE January 17th: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner have just won the Best Screenplay Award at the Golden Globes tonight.

Now that we’ve entered the new year, the awards season has arrived.  Only two weeks to go before the Golden Globes presentation, and about a week after that the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the buzz now is around the nominees.  And this one is a good start for the new year.

Watching Up In The Air is like reading an O. Henry story.  The twist at the end makes it hauntingly poignant. But O. Henry probably would not have imagined that a story could be told in such a visually dynamic way.

Following Oscar nominated Juno (2007) and Golden Globe nom Thank you for Smoking (2005), director Jason Reitman, together with screenwriter Sheldon Turner, have created a screen adaptation of Walter Kirn’s novel.  Reitman has crafted an apt and relevant contemporary tale with just the right pacing, suitable for those too rushed to stop for a story.  I’m sure they’ll enjoy this one.

‘I fly, therefore I am’ … that could well be the philosophical stance of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney).  He flies from city to city, doing something most bosses shy away from: laying off people.  Apparently Ryan loves his job.  It gives him the reason to be constantly on the go. One time on the plane, he is asked “Where are you from?’  With just the slightest hesitation, he answers: “Here.”

Ryan Bingham is also a motivational speaker.  He brings a backpack to the podium, an object lesson too vivid to ignore:  the more you put in, things and people the same, the heavier it’ll get, the more bogged down you’ll be.  His warning to his audience: ‘The slower we move, the faster we die.’  He’s the guru of non-committal living.

Goerge Clooney is perfectly cast as Ryan Bingham.  His suave, urbane sophistication is tailor-made for the role. Add in the nonchalant nuances, no wonder his performance earns him a nom for the Golden Globe.

But just when Ryan is performing so well with his air ballet — even his carry-on-suitcase-packing manuevers look sleek and stylish, thanks to some fascinating series of shots — Ryan gets notification that he’ll soon be grounded. Thanks to newly hired, Cornell grad Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has developed a video conferencing system for the company, Ryan can now do his job without leaving his office.

To phase in, Ryan is to bring Natalie along to familiarize her with his job.  It’s most amusing to watch the foil between the experienced and the naive, the callous and the tender.  At the same time, the plot thickens as Ryan meets another frequent flyer, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), in a hotel lounge.  Meeting Alex, who seems to share his airborne lifestyle, Ryan’s outlook on life soon faces a major turnaround.

As the film unfolds, you’ll find the title ‘Up In the Air’ not so much refers to the obvious: air travel, but a more metaphorical meaning.  It points to the existential limbo in which we sometimes find ourselves, always moving but never arriving, constantly twirling in the transitory, never coming to a rest.

Further, the film deftly deals with the questions most relevant to us all:  Is the rootless and ungrounded life worth living?  Does the ‘airborne’ phenomenon define the modern man/woman? What makes life meaningful after all?

The dramedy explores these issues without being didactic.  You’d be gratified to see Ryan’s awakening, and empathize with his situation as his path twists and turns.  With its slick editing, catchy music, witty dialogues, and great acting, the movie offers some worthwhile and enjoyable entertainment.

Up In The Air is nominated for 6 Golden Globes: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (both, Farmiga against Kendrick), and Best screenplay.  I think this will be a strong contender comes January 17th, and will likely soar to the Oscars.

As to which O. Henry story particularly stood out in my mind as I was watching the movie? Without giving out any spoilers, let me just say: when we know we need to change, let’s just hope that we’d get the chance to do so.

~ ~ ~ Ripples