Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Nog Sees Up in the Air
If we are to believe most critics, Up in the Air is like some long-lost Billy Wilder classic, an old-fashioned star vehicle (Clooney!) that perfectly combines seemingly light comic banter and romance with real substance. Well, it isn't that good (you can't put it right beside The Apartment on your DVD shelves and consider them interchangeable), but...it does succeed in many ways. The premise is interesting: Ryan Bingham spends his life largely "up in the air", (the title!!), flying around and firing people for large corporations, and he's come to prefer the limbo-like world of airports and hotel rooms to a world that requires real human connection. The scenes of various people speaking to the camera about losing their jobs work very well, fluidly moving through various tones. This being a Hollywood film, however, the narrative must largely concern Bingham's realization that he truly desires a world with more stability (meaning he must realize that what he really wants is to settle down with Vera Farmiga, who is very good in this role). Bingham's change is probably a bit abrupt, but the film does reveal that the one-to-one connection of firing someone face to face is essential to him (he finds video firing intolerable), so presumably his essential loneliness is meant to be a part of his character from the beginning. Yet the Bingham we see in the film's first half seems to be having a hell of a lot of fun flying around and casually banging Farmiga and eating big meals on the company dime, which seems to weaken the emotional impact of the film's final scenes a bit. Still, the film does a nice job of reminding us that romantic comedies don't neccesarily have to be completely empty-headed. It will be nominated for Best Picture (likely winning) and, in a weak year, I won't quibble with the choice.