Some people don’t know they’re stuck, just like Ryan Bingham – he’s UP IN THE AIR in Jason Reitman’s clever comedy-drama.
Ryan Bingham is quite happy in his solitary life, in his plain studio apartment that he doesn’t really see because he spends most of his time flying across the States for his job – firing people. But what happens when Ryan is jolted awake? UP IN THE AIR, a smart, insightful film by writer/director Jason Reitman is what happens.
After the success of his debut film Thank You for Smoking and then the mega-hit that was Juno, it was interesting to see where Reitman would go next. And the answer was to adapt Walter Kirn’s novel and ask George Clooney to brilliantly inhabit the very charismatic, seemingly worldly-wise and yet somewhat naïve Ryan, delivering a performance that constantly fascinates the audience throughout the story. The-times-they-are-a-changing in his business and his boss Craig Gregory (a smooth Jason Bateman) wants to shake things up a bit by teaching Ryan a new way doing things – a new way of firing people. But can this singular dog learn some new tricks?
Clooney’s superb performance – not for me beating the one as Michael Clayton but right up there with his light comic/dramatic portrayals for the Coen brothers – was rightly nominated for an Oscar. It doesn’t stand out there on its own though as it’s matched at every moment by the two women who come to have such an effect on him. There’s Anna Kendrick‘s brilliantly razor-sharp and emotional performance as the initially straightlaced, go-getter Natalie, whose eyes are opened in her journey on the road with Ryan. And the sexy, possible soulmate Alex who Ryan is captivated by is brought to life with a winning, almost tigress-like power by Vera Farmiga. Both were justifiably nominated as well.
Together they make Ryan realise that he needs to change his life and maybe, finally, connect with somebody. Maybe he should also get a little closer to his family, made up of two very contrasting sisters, who he’s distanced himself from for many years because, in the end, those are the relationships that matter. Of course, when you put yourself out there to someone, it might not always turn out the way that you hoped. But at least you’ll have experienced something along the way, won’t you?
It’s a brilliant, grown-up comedy-drama that explores the possibility of what you think you need, whilst making you value and nurture what you have. Reitman shows himself to be sophisticated with this material and he also peoples the supporting characters with some of the best actors out there: Zach Galifianakis, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton and J.K. Simmons – so great as the dad in Juno.
Watching Reitman follow this by collaborating again with his Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody on the very black comedy Young Adult, you see how in a short space of time he’s really building a fantastic body of work. Next up is Labor Day, where a single mum offers a ride to a potentially dangerous, wounded man. With a cast of Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Clark Gregg, it sounds like one to see. In the meantime, UP IN THE AIR more than showcases Reitman’s dizzying talent – make sure you see it.