Thursday, March 04, 2010

Takeoffs, layoffs, and the talented Mr. Clooney

Up in the Air has received so much critical acclaim and pre-Oscar buzz that I was expecting to be blown away by it. And as always when my expectations are raised so high, I ended up disappointed. Only slightly, though. The screenplay was the major letdown for me-- I anticipated brilliant writing from a film that's favored to win the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but I found the dialogue a little flat, and the storyline trite in parts. George Clooney plays man-on-the-move Ryan Bingham, whose job has him traveling all over the US firing people, and who feels most at home in airports, airplanes and hotels. Circumstances at work force him to take a young, earnest new employee (Anna Kendrick) under his wing, and this unlikely pairing, along with his romance with a fellow frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga), cause him to reassess the lonely life he's always loved. Bingham's change of heart is typical, and even the twist near the end is predictable. Yes, the story is entertaining enough, but there's really nothing fresh or inspiring about it.

I suppose since the film turned an eye on the humanity (or inhumanity) of corporate layoffs that it would resonate with American audiences in their time of economic recession, but I found the less obvious themes more interesting: the dehumanizing effect of technology; the idealism of youth; the exhilarating/exhausting lifestyle of the jet-set; dating dynamics in an age of long-distance booty calls and sexting.
And of course, the main message of human relationships as baggage struck a chord with me, as someone who puts so much premium on tending to my "roses".

More than anything though, Up in the Air was kept afloat by its 3 key actors. Between the 2 Best Supporting Actor nominees, I was more impressed with Farmiga, who delivered a more effortless performance as Bingham's match-made-in-mileage-heaven Alex. She had a dignified grace and regal presence about her, reminiscent of Cate Blanchett, but tempered with gentle humor. Kendrick on the other hand was thoroughly believable as Bingham's overzealous, idealistic protege Natalie, but like her character, she came off as trying too hard sometimes. Her best moments came when Natalie showed cracks in her Cornell-forged armor, but sharing a scene with both Farmiga and Clooney, she was simply eclipsed.

As for my man George, his biggest asset is also his biggest liability: his charm. That intangible something that makes him so irresistible-- from the adorable twinkle in his puppy dog eyes to his impish aw-shucks smile to his low, languid but oh-so-masculine voice-- tends to distract from his acting talent. And really, the man does have talent. There is a moment in Up in the Air, brief but memorable (if you've seen the movie I'll tell you which scene I mean), where one can catch Clooney stripped of his trademark charm, and glimpse a raw and revealing vulnerability that is both startling and sweet to behold. If I could hand him the Best Actor Oscar for that split second of honest emotion, I would. But then again, it could just be his puppy dog eyes working their magic on me.

Up in the Air is not Best Picture material for me, but it IS a good film, unpretentious and substantial, which is far more than what I can say for most movies nowadays that rely heavily on CGI to mask mediocre acting and weak plots (*coughAvatarcough*). And at the very least, one can pick up some helpful travel tips, served with a generous dose of that irrepressible Clooney charm.


At Sunday, March 14, 2010, Blogger dizzyme said...

I liked this movie, too! I also agree that the ending was predictable. But George was soooo charming! I wouldn't mind being fired if he'll be the one to do it :)

Have you watched An Education? I enjoyed that one, too. I'm still looking for a copy of A Single Man, I love Colin Firth! :)

- Daisy

At Monday, March 15, 2010, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Haven't seen either An Education or A Single Man, but want to! Lovelovelove Peter Sarsgaard and Colin Firth. =D


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