Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Up in the Air

I saw a profoundly good film this afternoon. It's called Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. He plays a business specialist who fires company staff on behalf of a company's management. And in the current climate, with U.S. unemployment over 10%, business is very good. In fact, it's a *huge* windfall for him and his company.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is on the road a lot. In fact, he really doesn't have a home -- airports are his home. And he has a personal goal:  to be one of the rare American Airlines customers to collect 10,000,000 travel miles.

When he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a fellow traveler who is also constantly on the road, Ryan seems to have found something of a soulmate. Except, of course, that he's not interested in having a committed relationship. Neither is Alex. They're both satisfied to have a "casual," sex-only relationship, getting together in a hotel room only when their busy schedules allow. (As Alex quips, she's essentially Ryan Bingham with a vagina.)

Ryan is anti-marriage, anti-committed relationship. He enjoys his lifestyle on the road, racking up huge air miles. But it exacts a serious toll. His relationship with his family (two sisters) is virtually non-existent. When his youngest sister, Julie, is getting married, he is invited to the wedding. But he seems rather out of place.

When Julie's fiance, Jim, has cold feet, Ryan is asked to talk to Jim. Ludicrous, of course, since Ryan is the last person on earth to give marriage advice. But the A-ha! moment for Jim comes when Ryan says, "Life is better with company." I'm not sure if Ryan believes it, but it struck a chord with me. Not that the advice has any value to me, since I am destined (doomed?) to be alone for the rest of my life.

Ryan and I have more in common than you might think. Earlier in the film, a colleague of Ryan's, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), accused Ryan of living in a "cocoon of self-banishment," afraid to make human connections. That just blew me away. Indeed, that phrase describes my world exactly.

When Ryan and Natalie were debating the value of marriage, the conversation was absolutely fascinating. Natalie raised the point about dying alone and Ryan retorted by saying that since the age of 12, he has seen all of his elderly relatives go into nursing homes. "Trust me," Ryan says, "in the end, we all die alone." Bingo!!!

The movie is a great commentary on life. Jason Reitman's direction is flawless. And Clooney gives yet another memorable performance (so many, I'm losing count!).

Up in the Air is one of the best films of the year, right up there with District 9. I'll be very surprised if it doesn't get several Oscar nominations. It's definitely a must-see movie.

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