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Monday, December 14, 2009

Boy George or Up In The Eh...

I took in Jason Reitman's new movie Up In The Air this weekend. The story centered around the lovable salt-and-pepper Ryan Bingham, played by Geroge Clooney, firing people across America while he teaches his new protege the ropes. It was also a pretty overt metaphor for the state of the world today: global communication, teleconferencing, and text messaging have left the world a much more lonely and miserable place. Maybe even...dare I say...disconnected? (get it? No? I don't either!) And despite all the hype about the film showing footage contributed by real people that have actually been fired in the past few years, it turned out to be a subtle blend of realism and poignant satire about the work place of today.

Most of the humor in the film was derived by a series of cameos including Jason Bateman, Zack Galafianakis, Danny McBride, and Sam Elliott. The rest of it came from a series of traveling jokes; how to pack, what kind of suitcase to get, and the never-ending merits of the frequent-flyer club that were made such a plot point I couldn't help but wonder if American Airlines had partially funded the film in an attempt to remind travelers today just how good life on the road can be. I'm still not sure they've convinced me, though I'd kill to step foot in an admirals club during my upcoming holiday travel.

But this movie wasn't a comedy. It was the story of a man isolated by much more than just a single-serving life at 30,000 feet. Clooney's character had a hard time determining which way was up in his changing world. His pathos was clear, in the end he realized that there is much more to life than a frequent flyer club and a table for one. But that's perhaps when the biggest mind fuck of the movie comes to light. I won't spoil anything, as it's a turn you should see coming a mile a way when you see the film, but suffice it to say it put a nice end note on the otherwise complacent mood of Clooney's character.

And I guess it wasn't a all that depressing of a movie despite my druthers going into it. But much like in Juno, Reitman reminded his audience that even when things seem like the are going to work out, real life comes and derails any plans you may have had. Juno is pregnant. Not okay. Wait, now it is. But then- the guy adopting the baby has a weird relationship with her and throws off her entire world. The same happens in Up In The Air. I guess the lesson is that the world isn't black and white. Everything is muddled to a certain extent. Decisions aren't easy. Life is complicated. And perhaps that is what makes Bingham (Clooney) such an interesting character. In a world of consistency, he begins to learn that the notion of regularity can be thrown out the window, thus changing his entire world view. When looking at the movie from that angle, it's hard not to respect it as one of the better character studies this year.

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