Up in the Air is based on Walter Kirn's novel, which I read before this blog began and thus didn't scribble down any notes for 2010 Andy to crib from. So I have to rely on my own memories, plus all of the media reports that have dwelt on how much director Jason Reitman changed the novel (which, luckily, does match my memory).
Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, the smiling face behind which a million bad managers hide. He fires people for a living; the company he works for (an aparrently very profitable but dull entity headquartered in Omaha) provides termination and transition services to downsizing companies, and Ryan is the guy who flies around to meet with people face-to-face and tell them that their jobs no longer exist. Ryan has burrowed into this life like a ferret; he's on the road over three hundred days a year and loves it that way. His entire life is lived on the road, and his great personal goal is getting to ten million airmiles on American Airlines -- which he's nearly reached.
But then two things happen, both caused by women (as is always the case) --
- A hotshot young go-getter at his firm, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), convinces the CEO (Jason Bateman) to roll-out a videoconferencing system. If that is fully implemented, Ryan and all of the other full-time road warriors will be landed in Omaha permanently.
- And Alex (Farmiga), a woman that Ryan meets in a random high-end business hotel in a random city and starts an affair with, unexpectedly makes him actually want her.
This is the third movie directed by Jason Reitman -- after the slicing Thank You For Smoking and the rousing Juno -- and it lives up to expectations; it's another smartly scripted and pointedly acted look at The Way We Live Now (or at least some of us). It's not perfect -- if I were in a different mood I might be complaining about some pieces of it -- but it's a fine movie for adults about real people and their real relationships, with three very strong performances at its heart.