Favorite New Films: Up in the Air

posted by The Joe


To be honest, when I first saw this film, I thought it was downright amazing and completely emotionally crushing. I couldn’t believe that I thought there was a better film this year than A Serious Man, but lo and behold, here it was. It may or may not have even brought a tear to my eye. Not that I can clearly remember, however, because right before the screening, I had ingested quite a large sum of scotch. Lots and lots of scotch. This presumably had a lot to do with my opinion then, because on second viewing, it is not exactly downright amazing and emotionally crushing and better than A Serious Man. But still, Up in the Air remains one damn great film.

Here’s where another, far more sober bias kicks in. I love the almost-otherworldly imagery of hotels and airports and parking lots and gaudy restaurants and car rental stations. Perhaps it has something to do with the concept of ‘endless transition’ in modern America, but the look of these sterile, always-the-same and always-comforting environments and the idea of someone thriving there has me hooked from the first moment. That said, the cinematography of this film is its major highpoint, making these places the most beautiful locations shot all year. Not to just make the praise a technical issue, I’m also fascinated with the philosophy of George Clooney’s character; how the places he encounters feel like home no matter where he might be, that fleeting connections turn out better than emotional baggage that comes with settling down, that all of this might just be enough.

Make no mistake, Up in the Air is the epitome of the modern American indie film, which of course is no longer indie at all. You get the indie music soundtrack, you get a single big name to sell the film on, you get a modest but still comfy budget, and you attempt to be emotionally ambiguous. Thing is, director Jason Reitman is pretty much the best at this right now. In both this and Thank You For Smoking, he took some rather unconventional ideas and made them ‘Hollywood’ by wearing the film’s themes right on their sleeves, but still managed to keep things ambiguous at the very end, never giving their characters the easy resolutions that other, lesser directors fall for.

Yes, some of it is heavy-handed, but us film geeks must understand that the majority of American viewing audiences need those themes put out in the open because artsy subtlety just doesn’t work a lot of the time. And I know that sounds like I’m condescending, but I really hold a lot against snobs like myself. I wish I wasn’t so damn cynical sometimes, because as I pointed out, when I lost that cynicism thanks to some delicious scotch, I thought this was the best damn movie in years. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Anyway, remarkable imagery, acting, and emotion, plus it’s got Zach Galifinanakis, Danny McBride, and Sam Elliot. Check it out at the Uptown Theatre right now, or when it goes wide on Christmas.

Up in the Air – Fantastic Fucking Trailer

Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 6:30 am