Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Up In The Air

When a few people told me about Up In The Air, they described it as "too timely" and "depressing." So I took a risk in seeing it by myself. I'm currently on the road and when I see a movie either in my room or in a movie theater, I am usually depressed. Even the funniest movie finds some way to depress me, because... well, ultimately I'm alone. There is no one to talk to, to find common ground with, to disagree with. No one. I will admit, there's comfort in being alone, it's why Clooney's character Ryan Bingham loved flying so much. I take extreme comfort in watching a movie on the plane by myself. For some reason, I do not feel the same way about watching a movie on the plane as I do in a hotel room or a movie theater while I'm on the road. I think it has to do with the fact that I usually fly with a group of people that I can talk to when we land. Whether or not they're interested in the movie I've just seen is another story. When I watch a movie on the plane, there are no kids who want my attention. No chores to be done. No clothes to be folded. No dog to be let out. It's just me and my little monitor and my bag of peanuts and my small serving of soda.

I myself am a frequent flier. Certainly not to the extent of Ryan, but I fly enough to be able to tell you that you don't put your shoes in the gray tray as Ryan did. That's a big no-no because it leaves the tray dirty. The security people don't care, but it's traveler courtesy. And I've flown enough to earn an A-List ranking with Southwest which means that I get to skip the long lines and I'm automatically checked in to every flight with an A boarding status. I take pride in the way I pack my backpack so that I know where everything is come time to unload it and reload it on the security belt. Why does this matter? Why does Southwest A-List status matter? Because it means I have to deal with fewer people. It means that I go in shorter lines which means less human contact. Our lives are filled with things that make it easy to avoid eachother. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Voicemail, automated voices. They describe it as "being connected", but in an effort to be in the "know" we've lost contact with eachother. Where Up In The Air is timely has less to do with the current state of our economy and more to do with the fact that we've all become comfortable with being alone. With being anonymous. With being void of any true emotional connection. One of the greatest lines in Up In The Air, is also one of the simplist. When Ryan's boss Craig Gregory (Jason Batemen) tells him that Natalie (Anna Kendrick) has just quit, Ryan says "you should call her."

If you have any kind of history with this blog, you know that I was not a big fan of Juno, because it was too caught up in Diablo Cody's witty dialogue to feel real to me. But where I feel Juno missed, Up In The Air completely hits. As far as I can tell, this is a near flawless film that will surely be missed come Academy time because of the shock and awe that is Avatar, which is truly a shame, because it is a complete movie, deftly written and directed by Jason Reitman.

I didn't find this movie depressing. Or too timely. Instead I felt uplifted by it (no pun intended). Glad to be married. Glad to have children. Glad to have all the things to stick in my backpack and haul around, no matter how much it hurt to hold it up. My alone moments on the plane watching my movie, or sitting in front of my computer in my quiet hotel room writing this piece are rich for me, because unlike Ryan, I know that I have so much waiting for me when my plane finally lands. This movie made me happy to be alive and if that's not worth high praise, then I don't know what is.


Sammyray said...

I wouldn't call this film FLAWLESS, although it is very very good. If not for THE HURT LOCKER, I would call this the best narrative film of 2009.

I grade it down a notch because that third act reveal is just about as cliched as it ever gets in film; how many times has that exact same thing been done?? While the coda afterwards helps it all go down nicely, it's still so clumsy and contrived.

Kramer said...

Agreed, great movie. I loved it, and while I guessed what would happen at the end, it didn't feel half as contrived as the rest of Hollywood's output in the last year.

Moviezzz said...

Love the film, but also am surprised by the depressing comment.

PIPER said...


Nearly flawless, I said. Nearly flawless.

And while I did see some of it coming, I was okay with it for some reason or another.


The depressing comment may have come from the fact that Clooney doesn't end up with the girl. Ooops, I just spoiled it a bit.

Burbanked said...

Great review, Pat. As always. Bastard.

I view myself as a pretty adept guy at spotting movie cliches coming a mile away, but every so often I find myself wrapped up sufficiently by a movie's characters and dialogue that the Most! Obvious! Plot reveal! hits me unawares. So it was with UITA. Call me a softy but I didn't see the reveal coming and even if it was in the back of my head I didn't think it would be quite such a face-smacker. Well done, Reitman.

Still, even with the contrivance I appreciated that this wasn't the usual Hollywood rom-dram-com where the guy realizes what an A-hole he's been, makes a huge blunder/misunderstanding, and then has to run and apologize for it. Ryan's progression as a character was much more believable and heartfelt, and as such made for a far better movie.

PIPER said...

Thanks Burbanked,

Like you I fell for it all. I knew it was coming, but still went with it and didn't give it a second thought.

Jason Soto said...

Apologize for making this off topic but I'm suppose to do this:

I nominated you for this here award:

Jason Bellamy said...

Where Up In The Air is timely has less to do with the current state of our economy and more to do with the fact that we've all become comfortable with being alone.

Yes! Very true. I enjoyed the movie, but I had a lot of problems with it, which I don't have time to recount here, so I'll be lazy.

As much as I enjoyed it, and as much as I agree that Avatar shouldn't beat it in almost any race, my gut tells me this will be a quickly forgotten film. Might be wrong about that, but we'll see.

Anyway, great review.

PIPER said...


Thanks for the award. Greg at Cinema Styles also gave it to me, so I'll be posting soon about them both.


You might be right about it fading. There are no incredible scenes that will make for good longevity. Even in thinking back to it, it was hard to remember the specifics that I liked. But boy, when I was in the theater, it was a good ride.

I'll check out your take on it.


Anonymous said...

really interesting movie..I watched this movie with my friends.And Thanks for the great review...I liked it...If anyone wants to watch Up in The Air movie,then you can watch it from this link...

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

The interesting thing about all of the technology that allows us to blow one another off is that absolutely none of it factors into how George has chosen to be alone.

Obviously the movie is an argument in favor of the thought that we really aren't alright with being alone. Even Alex is probably doing what she's doing because she's alone on the road.

Great movie.

Mike Lippert said...

Piper, your review is right on the money.

I can't understand how anyone could find this movie depressing. It is so full of hope and life and shows that one man's misfortune can help change the people around him.

In my review over at my blog I compared George Clooney to Marcello in Fellini's La Dolche Vita, that tragic figure who has been around too long and seen too many things to ever find redemption, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't offered the possibility of it. His sacrifice is one of complete selfessness and therefore should not be looked upon as tragic in the end.

This arguement over Up in the Air being depressing reminds me of a friend who once said that the end of La Strada depressed her to which I responded that, if such was the case, she had missed the point. Although the film ends in death it also actually ends in rebirth. Another selfless sacrifice for the betterment of a person's peers.

Therefore you are right, Up in the Air also left me feeling appreciative of everything I have and makes me think about cherishing the things I value most in life.

brian said...

Mr. Lippert,

Did you put the face make-up on yourself?

Mike Lippert said...

Brian, I am sad to report that that is not me in the picture, it is Federico Fellini.