Up in the Air

“Up in the Air” is George Clooney’s latest feature film, currently playing in theaters. I’m struggling to label it with a genre, because it includes bits of several… at times it’s funny (often bitingly so), at times it’s heartwarming, at times shocking, at times saddening.

Forget putting it in a category; it’s just plain GOOD.

The story primarily focuses on Clooney’s character, a consultant who travels around the country effecting layoffs for companies that have neither the expertise nor the courage to take care of “transitioning” their own surplus workforce out the door and onto new career opportunities. As someone who is on the road 80% of the year, he’s an expert at both travel and self-imposed isolation.

A young college graduate (played by Anna Kendrick of the Twilight series) joins the company with revolutionary ideas about how to save the company money with new technological approaches to severence packages, and Clooney’s character is saddled with showing her the ropes. She accompanies him on the road for some time, learning about her industry from a seasoned veteran. Of course, she quickly learns that firing people isn’t quite as clinical and straightforward as textbooks would have you believe.

There are some other plot lines in the script that fill out the story nicely: Clooney’s strained relationship with his family, Kendrick’s struggles with balancing a career and a boyfriend, Clooney’s chance encounter with his female counterpart at an airport (and the ensuing semi-relationship that follows), and the upcoming wedding of Clooney’s sister all help round out the storytelling.

In the end, though, the real point of this film is Clooney’s journey. He’s so immersed in his own solitary routines, so convinced that his isolationist mantra is the true path to a satisfied life, that you can’t WAIT for him to be knocked out of orbit and forced to reexamine his priorities. Unexpectedly, though, you get very caught up in the many shoves and tugs he is subjected to along the way.

It’s predictable at times — on at least three occasions I learned over and whispered a prediction of where a plotline was going, and I was correct (and, admittedly, annoying) each time. It’s okay though, since movies are formulaic because they WORK. And there are enough unexpected twists and turns, not to mention clever dialogue and excellent performances by the actors, to make it worth your time and money.

“Up in the Air” is a fine film, entertaining and thought provoking. Definitely check it out, whether in theaters or at home.

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