Up in the Air
Directed by Jason Reitman
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) lives life as montage: a plane-hopping pro hatchet-man who spins his traveling-salesman lifestyle with benefits-club membership cant. So too does Jason Reitman nearly cripple his latest film with punchiness, again, from Google Earth credits "funkily" scored to the notoriously censored "This Land Is Your Land" through Bingham's snappy airport routines and rationalizations of ending livelihoods for a living. Pitched with queasy-making confidence as being of the moment, Up in the Air is characteristically slippery in its maneuvers; at one point, we're asked to root for one method of firing people over another. But Reitman's preying upon close-to-bone anxieties eventually creeps up on you.
Bingham is a downbeat entry in Reitman's line of self-convinced fast-talkers, charming or irritating to audiences, who get unconvinced amidst a moral fog. But Clooney, domesticating his teflon glide, is upstaged by Anna Kendrick as a terrier-like consultant fresh from college who sells Bingham's boss (Jason Bateman) on termination via Skype. She's a compelling monster-victimâ€”nervily dissecting Bingham and his counterpart/sex partner (Vera Farmiga), but blubbering in premature quarterlife crisis over following a jerky boyfriend to Omaha.
Though Reitman keeps his film intriguingly aloft, coasting through airports, hotels and offices, he resorts (as in Juno) to convention, with a family wedding that gives Bingham the opportunity to rejoin the fold. What happens strikes a chord, even if it's an easy move on top of glibness. The problem remains that Reitman, who mainlines sincerity by showing real fired folks baring their souls to the camera, may not want to tell the difference.
Opens December 4