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Saturday, January 23, 2010

‘Up in the Air’, a down to earth recession movie

A well-drawn script, loosely based on Walter Kirn’s 2003 novel, is the backbone of George Clooney starring, contemporary comedy ‘Up in the Air’. If it were not for George Clooney and the charismatic actresses plus a couple of aerial shots, you could as well read the screenplay and get the gist of what director Reitman is saying about a corporate executive who is hired to fire employees whose ‘positions no longer exist’. Bingham, Clooney’s cool character, shuttling between flights, giving management lectures on ‘How to lose your backpack’ is at heart a loner (surrounded but isolated) whose backpack of human relation burdens him. The movie’s transcending grace is Bingham’s realization to connect or his failure to connect.
‘This man is your man’ song, moving clouds that seemingly turn to tides, and aerial views of cities, Up in the Air begins without pretensions. We have a trip with the man who travelled 350,000 miles last year through Dallas, Omaha, St Louis, Wichita, Tulsa, Des Moines and tens of other cities. As a viewer you need to settle down, calculating nothing losing your backpack of expectations.


The plot is hard to realize for a commercial feature film – just how difficult it is to tell an employee that he/she is no longer needed. In the film Bingham and his ‘co-firer’ terminate people through video conferencing. Bingham is apparently apathetic but for his colleague it’s heart breaking especially after her own relation with her would-be is broke. Director Reitman couldn’t take a better approach than treating downsizing with a comedic view – no slapstick, no sentiments and no suspense. The film is rich with humorous one-liners – ‘That’s like firing someone through Internet’ (after Bingham’s colleague is dumped by her boyfriend by a text message). In one in-flight scene, Bingham is asked by a steward, ‘Do you want cancer?’ (Do you want a can (of beer) sir?)

How to lose your backpack? Empty it. But it isn’t that simple for Bingham who grow filled as the plot thickens. The title ‘Up in the Air’ is a metaphor for Bingham’s attitude towards life. And he represents the busy, engaged, running and time-framed modern generation. He has a clever way to sack people whether convincing the not-wanted to explore hidden talents for the rest of life or be with the children more and more time and the like. Bingham is blind to see one woman’s agony that it is easy for her to jump off a river. And when she does exactly what she had said, Bingham’s colleague quits and nothing is shaky for him.

As a twist, it is the downsized, people who Bingham brutally fired, who ‘change’ his attitude. ‘Up in the Air’ is in Kuwait now. After watching it ruminate over or talk to someone. Perhaps the movie’s lines might expand.

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