LFF Review - Up In The Air
Review by Jack Foley
What’s the story? Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a management consultant specialising in firing people, and whose work enables him to build up his frequent flyer miles. When placed under threat by a new recruit who plans to introduce video links as a means of firing people, Bingham takes one last trip to try and persuade the newcomer otherwise, and to further his newfound relationship with the fellow flyer of his dreams (Vera Farmiga).
Our verdict: Of the three George Clooney films showing at the London Film Festival, Up In The Air is arguably the best… and a possible Oscar contender for its suave leading man.
Written and directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno fame), the film is a bittersweet comedy that’s socially pertinent and emotionally resonant. And while certainly operating in potentially tricky material (unemployment), it manages to avoid feeling smug or inconsiderate.
Rather, it’s an often inspiring film that treats its characters as genuine people with feelings, reputations and emotions that are just waiting to be hurt.
Clooney is at his charismatic best as Bingham, a man with a knack for firing people and even making the loss of a job seem like a new opportunity. However, while happiest on the road and when keeping his own company, Bingham is a man riding for his own fall.
Changes at work threaten to scupper his lifestyle and thwart his ambition to achieve an air miles landmark, while a newfound relationship with a fellow high flyer (Vera Farmiga) looks set to be grounded before it takes flight. What’s more, his new recruit, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) is an annoying distraction at best.
Clooney channels both confidence and vulnerability in exemplary fashion throughout the course of the story, and an Oscar nomination looks a distinct possibility.
But he’s in good company. Reitman’s script is sharp, insightful and plays to its leading man’s strengths and real-life persona, while Farmiga is a deeply alluring love interest, and Kendrick a plucky/annoying foil for his charms and business skills. A scene between the three of them, when talking about relationships, is particularly amusing and expertly played.
Extended cameos from the likes of JK Simmons, Danny McBride, The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis and Sam Elliott also enhance proceedings, whether for heightened emotional effect or comedic value. Jason Bateman also revels in another slimy role as Clooney’s compassionless boss.
And while the story of a man who fires people for a living may seem glib at best in the current economic climate, the film never loses sight of the emotional cost of losing a job. Indeed, several of the exchanges between employee and Bingham are deeply affecting.
Likewise, observations on life, love and loneliness, which lend the film its bittersweet core. In short, Reitman has crafted another smart, wry existential comedy that charms, entertains and makes you relate to its people and themes as only the best movies can.
It’s as smooth, slick and entertaining as flying first class – so you might want to book your ticket!
Screenings: Sunday, October 18 (Vue 5, 8.30pm/Vue 7, 8.45pm)
Monday, October 19 (Vue 5, 3.30pm)
Tuesday, October 20 (Vue 5, 1pm)