MOVIE REVIEW - 'Up In The Air' soars, but beware of turbulence

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While "Up In The Air" is a well-written, well-acted and well-directed film, it's not a feel-good movie. Frankly, it's a bit of a downer.

George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham. a shallow, self-absorbed man who makes a handsome salary flying around the country firing people. Right there is your first clue that "Up In The Air" is not all sunshine and tangerines.

Anyway, Ryan likes what he does or, at least, he likes being on the road more than 300 days a year. He enjoys airplanes, hotels, restaurants, bars and -- most of all -- not having any responsibility for anybody but himself.

Ryan, despite his tendency to think only of himself, is charming as well as handsome.

When we first meet, Ryan is traveling. There we see him at a hotel bar when he meets a female road warrior, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga). They soon realize they have a connection and engage in a lengthy discussion about all of their frequent-flyer benefits. This, of course, leads to sex.

And then it's back up in the air.

But when Ryan gets back to the home office in Omaha, a place he loathes, he learns he has been grounded. As a cost-cutting move his company will now have termination technicians do the firing via computer rather than face to face.

Ryan is skeptical as well as outraged. Ryan is cold, but even he thinks canning someone online is over the top. Plus, he doesn't want to give up his life of travel.

Nevertheless, Ryan doesn't really have a say in the matter. He can quit or go with the flow.

So, Ryan decides to do as his boss (Jason Bateman) asks. He heads out on one last road trip where he will show the young woman who came up with the idea of cyber termination exactly what he does.

Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is a bright, energetic woman who has a lot of ambition but little life experience. There is a clear generational clash on the horizon.

Should make for an, umm, interesting road trip, right?

Well, I won't say too much more except this movie is well worth watching.

The actors do an outstanding job of developing their quirky characters. Clooney does a masterful job of becoming, not just playing, this shallow-but-charming manipulator. Farmiga and Kendrick are wonderful as the women in Ryan's life. They, too, seem real even in the most unrealistic situations.

The script and direction are outstanding. Director Jason Reitman's dry, acerbic touch is perfect for this strange-but-compelling story. This movie has a similar feel to it as Reitman's previous hit films, "Juno" and "Thank You For Smoking."

Again, you won't walk away whistling, but "Up In The Air" will amuse and entertain. It will even give you a few things to think about.

Rick Eskil can be reached at rickeskil@wwub.com or 509-5276-8309.


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