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December 28, 2009


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Ian David Moss

Yeah...I thought something about that movie was weird, and that was definitely weird.


Or you could argue it was instead a revenge fantasy: The Fired are Good People who have The Most Important Thing (someone to Looooove) and corporate America are jerks who may have money but have no one to love them.

That's sweet, but feels as dishonest as an apologia for corporate America due to an excess of sentimentality. The fact is that those precious families may be torn apart due to financial stress, and of course there are many fired folks who are in short supply of loved ones as there are many corporate jerks who are doing fine familywise. This falls in the "Isn't it Pretty to Think So?" dept. which, given that film isn't exactly shooting for escapist fare, is a failing.


I think the interviews are interviews with real people. The moment at the end for me was actually "oh all these people who got fired are real!" So it was real people talking about how they recovered from a great trauma. And I found that deeply moving. the ending does not feel happy to me.

Aaron Riccio

I don't think the end of the movie tried to make us think that these people were doing "great." (That one dude's nose was still twitching like crazy.) It was just showing us how people cope; for Clooney, it's to sever all ties again. For other people, it's to strengthen the bonds you do have. Baggage is really all in your mind, after all; that backpack is only as heavy as you make it.

Is Clooney miserable at the end of the film? Are those unemployed people happy? If there's a point, it's that we can't say for sure. At best, we can only imagine--and hopefully empathize--with what it would be like to be in either situation.

Simon Crowe

I finally think the novel is an indictmemt of the lifestyle of Clooney's character - the twist at the end is much crueler. What you're perceiving may be a nod in that direction. Despite all the attention paid to the use of nonactors I don't think Up In The Air comments on the economy in any real way. It's the story of a guy who had forgotten how decent he is. It's very pleasant for what it is but not very profound. (I actually preferred the film to the book)


I think that it wouldn't have been positioned for Oscar campaigns, nor would it have attracted Clooney in the first place, if it didn't have that corporatist apologia that is the ruling myth of downsizing: Sooner or Later, They'll Be OK. It's an Opportunity! They're Finding their Goddamn Cheese! And of course there's little meaningful mention of the real need behind the detached specialist downsizer growth industry: Preventing violent and personalized workplace retaliation.

I refer to this series of posts as a corrective:


Isaac, I refer you to this great mini-interview with Jason in New York magazine (http://nymag.com/movies/features/62896/). Here's the salient bit:

"My films are polarizing. I don’t want to tell my audience what to think. Thank You for Smoking—liberals thought it was theirs and conservatives thought it was theirs. And pro-lifers thought Juno was theirs and pro-choicers thought it was theirs. Up in the Air has a similar divide, depending on what people think the ending of the movie means."


Which means, really, that the director is a wimp, at heart. He wants the confused audience in the middle, but doesn't want to display the intellectual or technical rigor to really explore both perspectives.

Like do you see any boss above Bingham -- from his firm or the ones he's a hitman for -- be a decent person? Do we ever see the horrible stats that tell the corporations' side of the story? Is there one firee who we see should be fired? No?

Then Reitman can spare me that bullshit about his endings being ambiguous -- he's just a lazy storyteller who doesn't want the hard work of defending a clear POV.


I just came from it and I'm still processing it, but I didn't feel like the fired people were doing just fine, but at least they had someone in their lives, some sort of safety net, which Bingham certainly lacked. I don't know if it felt sentimental to me, though maybe it was trying to and just fell short. It just seemed like it all kind of sucked. It sucked to be Bingham, it sucks to be fired. In fact, the only person who came up smelling like roses was Kelly.


But that's a bias Reitman and the writers created -- that the fired had a Safety Net o' Love, even though JK Simmons' character demolishes that pathetic nonsense early on with the fact that the people he loves will suffer and possibly die without the benefits he sold his dreams to get.

And the Negro broad who was focused/angry/unblinking enough to make a suicide threat, then carry it out? Hell of a safety net *she* had, huh?

Reitman can't have it both ways -- UITA's neither a floor wax nor a dessert topping, and he can't depict the savagery of a downsizing consultant industry while pulling his punches that the lonely, friend- *and* family-rich will be destroyed by it.

The unions that would have paralyzed the country if any of their members faced such crap had to be functionally destroyed -- trading benefits for its older employees for jettisoning its young -- before roaming gangs of terminators could even exist.

And I can't think on anyone in the movie that comes out better -- not the newly-married couple whose future's chained to a failing real estate market, not the wife-and-mom who's one impulsive decision away from a Tiger Woods-Level Event, not the San Fran new hire who left a perfect trail of breadcrumbs for trial lawyers to follow), not even that handsome man whose only tragedy that his perfect record of detachment was ruined by someone less committed to truth and selfishness than he.

Objectivists might consider it a tragedy of a ruined icon, but for me it's a work that could have gone deeper.


And Mr. Grillo-Marxuach (creator of THE MIDDLE MAN and other quality entertainment) says it plain:

"like "the devil wears prada," "up in the air" makes way too good an argument for the life it ultimately deems undesirable."


I would buy that for "devil" but not "up in the air". It's certainly a dramatically interesting life, but who among us was tempted at any point to say "you know, maybe spending most of the year in a series of hotel rooms and airplanes would be nice"?

It's certainly a common gambit of movies to fantasize about some sort of sinful life only to back off at the last minute. But that strategy in itself is not corrupt; how we are we to understand the appeal of a way of life to corporate terminators, gangsters, etc. if the movie doesn't explore that lifestyle's attractions? The test is whether the backing off from that life feels sincere or just a fig life to cover some moral obscenity. In the case of "Up in the Air" there were cliches along the way, but I believed the connection with Vera, and I believed that it got deeper than Clooney expected it would. And I absolutely believed the outcome of all that. It's the end of Peter Pan where Wendy has grown up and Peter is still flying around. And maybe there was a time when Peter could have grown up, but it's too late now.

I guess I've never gotten over The Unbearable Lightness of Being and those themes. To me "Up in the Air" is of a piece of that whole line of thought; exploring how lightness becomes a kind of heaviness. Despite clunky steps along the way with the wedding, the running to the airport, the band-aid interviews, I felt it arrived at that conclusion honestly.


Well, it didn't win, even for best adapted screenplay, which I thought it would.

One of the problems of having an economy now converted to Hollywood job-permanence rules is that its workers have no sentimentality about being fired.

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