Wednesday, 27 January 2010

FILM REVIEW: Up In The Air




Jason Reitman my man, you have done it again! An almost faultless, perfect gem of a film, and one - I don't say this very often - that I would have no qualms going to see again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. If only the feeling it leaves you with and the overriding message had been much more satisfying, then it would have secured all five of my cheeses! That said, I'm still going to sing its praises til the cows come home.


Everything was so slick and beautifully put together, you could completely engross yourself in the storyline, not being jarred back into reality for a moment. Reitman's fluidity and confidence is immensely impressive for a man with a mere three films to his name. This is a guy whose every project should be revered and anticipated within the film world. There were some wonderful little set pieces - obviously sourced from the book by Walter Kirn but delivered charmingly by skilled acting and directing- slotted in artfully to either impose a mood or finitely tell the viewer something about the character ("would you like the cansir?" and Ryan's barren home apartment, complete with the mini bar in his fridge).


I've never been a fan of George Clooney - I haven't doubted that the man has talent (he embodies 21st century Cary Grant), but his script choices so far have eluded me. This one however allowed me to see what all the fuss is about with a central performance that really carries the film. And no matter how arrogant and aloof the character of Ryan is, Clooney pulls the tragic and the loneliness out of him, making him likeable no matter what the end result is. His reaction to any particular situation or verbal accusation is consistent and believable and the effort Clooney has put in to completely become Ryan Bingham really pays off, and he's a shoo-in for Best Actor at the Oscars. Not that he outshines his co-stars though - oh no. Vera Farmiga is extremely sultry as mistress Alex, but it's Anna Kendrick who is the star here: rightly deserving all the praise she is receiving for playing young upstart Natalie.

Her character is so well-written and she is lucky in that regard, but it's also one heck of a performance conveying brassy self assurance and a poker straight posture whilst inside hiding a little girl 'who followed a boy to Omaha'. She has some fabulous lines, delivered with such a bravo naivety she is almost always guaranteed a laugh every time - I particularly loved the scene where she is swapping Mr Right ideals with Alex: in fact that period of ten, fifteen minutes where she breaks down, meets Alex and they all gatecrash a party was my favourite sequence of the whole film. She is so lovable when they lose her at the party and then find her doing heartache karaoke! There's been a lot of criticism of her crying scene and how 'fake' it appears, how it's OTT by the actress, but I couldn't see this in a more different way. I thought it was absolutely spot on: the suddenness of it, the bawling and the flapping arms now she's not in control, and then the fight to regain that control and composure when she has to introduce herself to Alex to maintain professionalism. It was also brilliantly funny, especially Ryan's glaring panic and awkwardness at how he's supposed to comfort her. Anna Kendrick also thoroughly warrants an Oscar nod for her role in this - without her the film would be nothing but average. Her knockabouts with, and on screen chemistry with George Clooney, was an absolute joy to watch.

It was also one of those films where you keep yelling "oh he's in this!", "oh where do I know him from?", "ahhh, look who it is!" every few seconds. I didn't realise Jason Bateman was in this, and what a sizeable role he had playing the boss of the company. I love Jason Bateman, even if he does play Michael Bluth in everything, he's still a worthy presence to have around. Also nice to see ZackGalifianakis playing one of the guys getting fired, and the crazy little intern from Nip/Tuck too! In fact in an oddly playful way it was fun to try and guess from little snatches of performance whether the man being made redundant was an actor or whether it was a real life misfortune.

It was the ending that let this film down. Not the full last half an hour as other people infuse: I liked the wedding scenes, the sappy bits and also the uncomfortable parts too (when he offers to walk her down the aisle like he's expecting her to gush and throw her arms around him, but then she turns him down). Alex's easy confidence not only fooled Ryan but fooled me too because I did not see the twist coming when it did. It was around that moment when I thought things were going to be given a gooey polished off ending, but then Reitman delivers that cruel blow. It was interesting though because casting my mind back to Juno briefly (Reitman's second film), that was also a story with a bittersweet ending - we expected she would keep the baby/we expect that Ryan will find love and settle with Alex. But Reitman lures us into easy dwellings, and turns our expectations on their head. We're left thinking that the reformed Ryan should have got more than just harshly being left alone, but then you take a more holistic approach and think: but didn't he get what he wanted all along? His ten million frequent flyer miles, a life up in the air and without commitment? Isn't that what he's been about all along? Yet the melancholy ending leaves you with a surprised sense of depression. He was shown a way out, found he rather liked it, and then the door was slammed in his face (literally). But perhaps he ultimately deserved that, no matter how far down the redemptive path he'd travelled? There are literally so many contradictory messages you can take from this film: trust no one, don't forge relationships, do forge relationships, it's better to be with someone than alone, embrace change... I really like that, it's one of the reasons I love this film, but I would have preferred to come out grinning stupidly with a slight skip rather than trudging out feeling like someone had just popped by balloon.

Up In The Air is as sobering as it is funny, with some fantastic performances from Clooney and Kendrick. This is filmmaking at its best and should be viewed by all.




No comments:

Post a Comment