This weekend, PJ and I saw George Clooney‘s new movie, Up in the Air, which is about a guy named Ryan Bingham, whose job is to travel around the country firing people. Here’s the trailer:

As the trailer suggests, Ryan loves the mostly impersonal world of air travel, in which services are rendered in a friendly but non-invasive way. In fact, he’s developed a self-help lecture based on the principle that one’s entire life should fit into a backpack.

The main conflict in the movie revolves around a threat to Ryan’s way of life: he is closing in on 10 million frequent flier miles when he finds out that his boss, played by Jason Bateman, has decided to follow a new business model proposed by the new kid on the block, Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick. She’s proposed that the company fire people via the internet instead of in person, saving lots of money and upping the number of firings each representative can handle in a day. Ryan therefore has to figure out a way to convince his boss that her proposal is wrong before he’s grounded permanently. To make this point, Ryan takes Natalie out with him on a trip, which changes both of their perspectives on life in various ways.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. First off, Clooney is great in the main role. He has perfected his likable, sad puppy look and matured it so that we see w kind of worldly wisdom about how Ryan operates in the world. I also really like that the movie doesn’t simply teach him the lesson that life can’t be lived alone. The film is more complicated than that. While Clooney is undeniably attractive and easy to look at on screen, he’s also a good actor who imbues his character with believable emotions, desires, and aspirations.

He is paired with Vera Farmiga‘s Alex, another traveler embraces the impersonal, no attachments lifestyle of frequent travel. Their romance is beautifully grown up. Watching two sexy, mature people flirt with and seduce one another is really hot, at least as it’s depicted in this film. Farmiga and Clooney definitely have chemistry on-screen!

But the real gem of this movie is Kendrick, whose previous noteworthy credits include small roles in Camp and the Twilight movies. Now I would be remiss not to mention that she is great in Camp. She plays an Eve Harrington type character who’s willing to do anything is get a good number in a musical at theater summer camp. When she poisons her nemesis, she gets her way:

She is really great in Up in the Air. If I were an Academy member, she would get my vote for Best Supporting Actress. She starts off as a know-it-all upstart who has a great idea but doesn’t have the experience to really know what she’s talking about. Her scenes with Clooney are great, alternately humorous and dramatic. She doesn’t have any big vote-for-me-scenes really, but her performance throughout the film is nuanced and mesmerizing. She’s as much the heart of the film as Clooney’s character is. I guess I would say that they learn a lot from each other and those lessons are the point of the film.

Up in the Air is a smart film for grown-ups, something you don’t see every week at the theater. It’s well-directed and written, the actors are great, and it tells a story that is as much about our culture and the larger economic downturn as it is about these characters. I really enjoyed it and think that it’s in contention to be my favorite film of the year.

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