Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a single, 50-ish professional downsizer (i.e. he fires people executives don’t have the guts to fire themselves) who spends most of his time in airports and likes his life so much that he gives motivational talks about the benefits of living with no strings attached. Sound like the set-up for a movie that teaches us how emotional connections are what make life worth living? You got it.
And if you didn’t, don’t blame director and co-screenwriter Jason Reitman, whose witty script neatly ushers viewers toward the message at each turn. Clooney does his best to infuse warmth into Ryan, a character so one-dimensional and profoundly uninteresting that you wonder what prompted a film based on such a man.
In the end, the movie is saved by the female characters and the women playing them. Vera Farmiga makes business traveler Alex come alive as a tough, alluring, and more-complicated-than-she-seems (read: real) woman in her 40s. Anna Kendrick is both irritating and endearing and just as convincing as Ryan’s keen, young firing-squad trainee. The clever banter among the characters is worth the price of the ticket. In hindsight, though, “Up in the Air” proves true to its title. Out of sight, out of mind. From a 2001 novel by Walter Kirn.