Movie Review: Up In The Air (2009)

Up In The Air is an entertaining movie with a worthy message. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) fires people for a living. He works for a company contracted by businesses who need to fire employees but don’t want to deal with the emotional mess that accompanies it.

Bingham loves his job, which allows him to travel from city to city enjoying the “simulated hospitality” offered by airlines, hotels and rental car companies to their loyal repeat customers. Bingham’s loyalty is to impersonal, non-human corporations. His idea of a relationship is a flight attendant greeting him by name when he boards his flight. His life is “up in the air” in that he is not connected relationally to others. Bingham’s job title is as antiseptic as his life: “Career Transition Consultant.” Even in the midst of terminating others, Bingham’s simulated sympathy is delivered dead pan. The lack of community, relationship and emotional attachments insulate Bingham from the pain of really living.

But Bingham loves his life, or so he thinks, until he falls for Alex (Vera Farmiga) and decides to join the human race, leading to an unexpected twist and ending, which I won’t spoil for you here. It’s to Clooney’s credit his charm keeps the movie light enough to be entertaining while it delivers its very serious message.

That message? Community matters. People matter. There is more to life than racking up frequent flyer miles and drinking martinis in the club lounge at the airport. A career is not a substitute for relationships and community. Hollywood got this one right. I recommend it. Rated R (Language and Some Sexual Content). GS