This morning I saw Up in the Air, starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga.
Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is slimy. Not in the way a car salesman is slimy (though he does a little motivational speaking on the side), but in a way that only those prone to habitual selfishness can be. His family barely knows him. He is wifeless. He is childless.
So, he has the perfect job. He's a professional "terminator" who flies all over the country to fire the employees of downsizing companies. He takes pride in his resolution techniques and has an obsession with accumulating frequent flier miles.
When new recruit Natalie (Anna Kendrick) comes on the scene with a technological idea that will ground Bingham and his colleagues from in-person firings, he doesn't take the news lightly and complains to the boss. As a result, he's assigned to show Natalie the ropes by taking her on a series of trips and training her how to do his in-person job.
These scenes—and the relationship that develops—could have been painfully predictable were it not for the smart writing that instead made it believable. The two don't become best friends and they're not interested in being lovers, but they do stand to learn a lot from one another.
Also on the journey is Alex (Farmiga), a spunky businesswoman who seems to be the male version of Ryan and has no reservations about starting a sexual relationship with him the first night they meet. Alex and Ryan would be vastly unappealing alone, but together seem better.
What transpires will please some and disappoint others, but few can dispute this film is engaging, smart and entertaining. Farmiga should be a bigger star by now and Kendrick is a new, nice surprise. Clooney is at his charming best when he's playing himself, and I would bargain this role comes pretty close.
If I had to find something wrong with the film it would be seeing Jason Bateman for the upteenth time as the stuffy, corporate guy who talks down to people. As the boss, he reverts back to every other asshole he's played and almost seems tired doing it. Guess what: we're tired of seeing him do it. He's a good actor—let's utilize him in some better way.
There's also a hefty amount of product placement from American Airlines and Hilton hotels, but for a film based on travel, you almost need some real names thrown in for authenticity.
At the end of the day, the story examines a question many struggle with: is it worth it to go through life with a partner, surrounded by meaningful connections to family and friends, or would we all be better off flying solo?
The answer is different for each of us.