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Warning you about crappy movies since 2008.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Up in the Air

Why the fuss over this one? It's not even an easy movie to like, much less love.

People have called it a movie for our sad economic times. It does speak to our country's booming unemployment rate, but exactly what director Jason Reitman wants to say about it is left, well ... up in the air.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a suave hired gun who fires people for a living. And, if he doesn't necessarily enjoy the firings, he sure loves the perks that go along with his frequent-flying life. He has no attachments to anyone or anything, and he likes it that way. He goes from one sterile hotel to the next. Even the Omaha apartment he calls home looks as impersonal as a room at the Hilton. It's to Clooney's credit that this character he plays is actually likable.

Into Ryan's perfect world walks Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a 23-year-old hotshot out to create a new, more efficient technological process to fire people. Kendrick is a terrific actress, but her part's not written in a way that's worthy of her. I didn't find it believable that her buttoned-up, career-obsessed character would talk down to or berate her would be-mentor, Ryan. In the real corporate world, she might stab him in the back -- but she wouldn't likely be so confrontational with someone with that much seniority.

Ryan is enjoying his commitment-free, nomadic life when he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), who is, seemingly, his female equivalent. She is as eager for a no-strings-attached "relationship" as Ryan is, but he grows a little too fond of her. Her dated, modified Farrah hairdo got on my last nerve, and I didn't find her a worthy match -- on any level -- for Ryan. Bad casting.

Speaking of bad casting, I didn't believe that Clooney's character was genetically related to his alleged sisters. How this handsome, sophisticated charmer shares a gene pool with his two frumpy, dopey sisters is beyond me. No wonder he doesn't want to maintain family ties with these gals.

The laughs are few and far between. Zach Galifianakis (of The Hangover fame) provides a welcome chuckle in his one brief sequence as a vengeful, terminated employee. But, this film really isn't the comedy it's made out to be.

It's been called a latter-day It's a Wonderful Life, yet our hero is more of an anti-hero than George Bailey. The characters in this movie may learn some tough lessons, but they're not necessarily going to heed them.

Throughout the movie, George and Anna speak in platitudes to the employees they're firing. They try to convince them that being fired will ultimately be a good thing -- maybe the best thing that's ever happened to them. None of the employees is buying that line. That's why the faux heart-warming ending is so jarring. Newly fired ex-employees talk about how getting fired made them realize it's family that really matters and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Our hero, Ryan, doesn't even believe that line. So, what does Reitman want the audience to believe? I have no idea. The contradictory messages, mediocre script and poor casting choices force me to say: Skip it.

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