Why I’m Still Up in the Air about Up in the Air

Jason Reitman, director of 2007’s “indie” hit Juno, is at it again. Up in the Air follows an executive, Ryan Bingham played by George Clooney, whose job it is to fly around the country and fire people. The perverse, but supposedly “quirky” part is that Ryan seems to get off on it. The whole film follows him as he performs mass firings around the country. Thst is, until, his way of life is threatened. A young career woman Natalie Keener, beautifully portrayed by Anna Kendrick, threatens his way of life “grounding” him and forcing him to live in one place. Throughout the entire movie Clooney’s character is the perfect example of the Peter Pan complex, never wanting to grow old, but he has little more depth than that. Then, of course in the third act, he magically changes. He wants to finally settle down, but of course, nothing goes as planned there. Truth be told, I couldn’t help but sort of be glad he didn’t get all that he wanted. He’d spent about 90 minutes of my life being an unlikeable and unapologetic character so I would’ve been furious for him to receive his happy ending. It was a perfect illustration of “too little, too late”. However, Clooney’s character is surprisingly the one that I have less of a problem with. Natalie Keener and Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga, are the two female leads in the movie. Although Natalie has her annoying traits, she is overwhelmingly charming. She has some bad ideas about success and about relationships, but the audience forgives her. She’s young and she’s new to this, hell, she’s practically still a kid. Alex is a different story. She is essentially the female version of George Clooney’s Ryan Bingham. For this reason, Ryan and Alex function well together as they schedule sex dates and nothing more.
SPOILER ALERT.
So when Natalie quits because she realizes she doesn’t have the stomach for the job, I was slightly relieved. Then they add one line of dialogue that completely destroyed it for me. “Text message.” It’s supposed to be a throwback to when her boyfriend dumped her via text message, but it doesn’t come off as quirky or endearing. Instead, that simple line strips her of her dignity. It shows her as weak for not being able to do the job and quitting via text message, rather than being human. Alex even undergoes a similar transformation from strong female to less than. Of course, after Ryan’s undergone his magical transformation where he realizes he has to grow up, he hops a flight to Alex’s house where he discovers that she has a family and a life. Of course, she can’t be a strong, independent woman who has casual sex with strangers like Ryan does. It feels like she’s being punished for having an actual sexual appetite. So, yes, it’s true that Ryan doesn’t get all that he wanted, but it’s at the expense of these women. With Natlaie quitting, he gets to keep his way of life. With Alex, reducing him to a sex object, he is free of his fear of commitment. All in all, the movie has interesting parts to it and some endearing characters (at least for most of the movie), but in the end it’s almost a masturbatory worship of the middle-aged man-child. END OF SPOILER.

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