Air captures the way we live in a downsizing world. The thing that you must realize is that the critics saying this mostly have worked for newspapers or print publications. They work in a notoriously fickle industry that currently going through financial and existential crises. So a movie about downsizing that follows a corporate downsizer is going to feel intensely real and relevant to those judging it.
Up in the Air creates a world of airports as palaces of disconnection. Ryan Bingham is the crown prince. He keeps a hotel room in Omaha to keep the IRS happy, but the terminal is the only homes that he really knows. It’s there that he meets and falls for the Gold Club version of the truck stop floozy (a splendid Vera Farmiga), who coordinate their stopovers to maximize sexual enjoyment.
His way of life is threatened by the just-out-of-school whipper-snapper who thinks it would be more efficient to fire people over the Internet. She tags along with Bingham’s traveling show to learn the ropes. Up in the Air is not a terrible film, but it is liquored up in seat 27D with smugness and self-congratulation.
It also has tonal issues – flying and trying for dramedy, but its jocular script too often battles with its serious setting. So does Kendrick, whose chatty insecurity routine is about as one-note in acting as it comes. George Clooney has several very good scenes, notably firing a man while encouraging him to follow his youthful dreams. Farmiga is the real highlight –you wonder if this will launch her more than “The Departed.” Jason Reitman’s hand is steady, his framing solid.
He wants to be a classic studio director, using the model of Billy Wilder. That means the film has only so much adventure or personal touch. Perhaps that’s fitting for a film about modern dislocation.