Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 52
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

AT LAST I’VE FOUND A KINDRED SPIRIT!: Ryan (George Clooney, left) is delighted to discover that the beautiful woman Alex (Vera Farmiga), whom he has just met in the airport’s bar, is as obsessed as he is in accumulating frequent traveler miles. Their chance acquaintance quickly blooms into romance as the plot of the movie thickens.

Up in the Air: High Altitude Sitcom Stars George Clooney as Hatchet Man

Kam Williams

Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) services are very much in demand during these dire economic times that are marked by downsizing and outsourcing of jobs overseas. He euphemistically refers to his line of work as career transition counseling, but what he actually does is fire people for companies that don’t have the stomach to terminate their employees themselves. As a result, Ryan is on the road, or more accurately “up in the air,” over 300 days a year, as he crisscrosses the country on assignments from his boss, Craig (Jason Bateman), who is in the corporate headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska.

Fortunately, Ryan enjoys the constant travel because he is an unattached and confirmed bachelor. He readily admits that he feels more at home in hotels and on planes than in the tiny apartment that he very rarely uses. Furthermore, he is not interested in accumulating worldly possessions. His major interest in life is an obsession with accumulating frequent flyer miles in order to enjoy the perks he receives in upgrades in car rentals, credit cards, and accommodations.

Everything changes when Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), a kindred spirit, in an airport lounge. It turns out that she too is a loner who is living out of her suitcase and is also determined to accumulate as many travel perks as possible. Their casual encounter leads to an impulsive overnight dalliance which then become plans for similar meetings whenever their itineraries intersect.

Their romance is at the heart of Up in the Air, the latest movie from Jason Reitman. The film is loosely based on the identically titled Walter Kirn best seller. For example, the picture introduces a completely new character Natalie, (Anna Kendrick), who is not in the novel. She’s Ryan’s recently hired colleague who comes up with the bright idea of using a video conference to fire people. If her idea is adopted by their boss, it will put an abrupt end to Ryan’s field trips and to his budding romance with Alex.

The movie is a delightful romp, but it is likely be disappointing to Reitman’s fans if they compare it to either Juno or Thank You for Smoking (which earned the #1 spot on this critic’s Top 10 List of 2006). Clooney and Farmiga generate excellent screen chemistry with each other and deliver the writer/director’s trademark pithy banter very well. However, Anna Kendrick often comes across as unsure of herself, and thus fails to deliver her lines as well as might be expected.

Fortunately, the rest of the supporting actors, which include J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliott, Danny McBride, and Zach Galifianakis, deliver their dialogue with perfect aplomb, so that Up in the Air serves up a down-to-earth look at 21st century dating habits.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated R for profanity and sexuality. Running time: 109 minutes. Studio: Paramount Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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