"Up In the Air" Lands on Its Feet

A slick, cute, diverting, superbly-acted film but also an empty one due to the picture's raison d'être: a one-trick pony concerned solely with lack of commitment.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) works for a company that steps in and fires long-time employees of other companies when their managers find it difficult to perform the task.  Bingham is rarely home, spends most nights in hotels and has racked up millions of frequent-flyer miles as a result of his constant traveling. We assume that Ryan has one-night hotel adventures with women he meets on the road and rarely sees the same woman on more than one occasion.

During the film, two special women enter his life.  One is a fellow worker, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who is a trainee learning firing techniques from Bingham.  When she enters the film, she has introduced the initiative of firing people over video conferencing, thereby rendering Bingham's tactics and lifestyle obsolete. The other is Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) whose job also requires her to fly around the country. Alex Goran performs the role superbly. Alex and Ryan meet and their tenuous relationship soon deepens. He takes her to his family's home where his younger sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), is getting married. His older sister, Kara (Amy Morton), is staying at a hotel having just separated from her husband.  The attachment between Ryan and Alex continues to grow during this time, and their walks and discussions reminded me of the scenes between Katharine Hepburn and Rosseno Brazzi in "Summertime."

I won't discuss the dénouement which for me was the only truly emotional moment in the film.  I may have spun the story too enticingly; nevertheless, it provided a diverting evening at the theater which hasn't happened often in recent weeks.