up in the air

December 17, 2009

“how much does your life weigh?  imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack.”

george clooney is a man who flies around the country firing people.  that’s his job.  he shows up, tells you you’re fired, then leaves.  he has a philosophy about life that’s centered around backpacks.  how when we fill them with the things we have in this world (house, car, friends, family) it gets heavy and is not worth carrying.  he has a relationship with another frequent flyer who seems to finally be the one who connects with him.  he never sees his home, he never sees his family.  his sister’s getting married, but he’s never met her future husband.  he only spends money on things that get him more miles so he can reach his 10 million mile mark and get his name on the side of a plane.

that seems like a lot of stuff, but the movie actually doesn’t seem to do much in way of plot.  it really is a movie where not a lot happens.  usually i love those kinds of movies.  i’m all about taking your time to develop character and setting and mood.  but this film doesn’t really try to do any of those things.  it throws us into the world of the frequent flyer george clooney, and expects us to bond with him.  when in reality, it’s almost impossible.  the film wants us to buy into a guy who’s main point is that all humans will let you down.  it’s fundamentally flawed.  how can i be interested in a man who isn’t interested in anything….except flying?

there’s so much here that could have been done well.  the idea of him saving up for his 10 million mile mark is great, but completely handled wrong.  i never once got the sense that he actually cared about it or cared about anything.  he just seemed to sit there while life happened around him.  the whole concept of a man coming into town, meeting someone for the first time, then completely changing their life is really interesting.  but the film only really focuses on that idea for a second then decides it’s not worth investigating.  we seem to start different rabbit trails every two minutes in the film.  one of our main characters, a girl we actually can sort of connect with and invest with, ends up leaving about half way through the film and we never see her again.  it just isn’t interested in anything that is interesting, and that’s a problem.

i never once felt emotionally invested in any of the characters (except for anna kendrick’s character a little) and really didn’t care what happened to them.  the whole clooney/farmiga sequence did absolutely nothing for me.  and her end to the film totally doesn’t flow with what we saw just 10 minutes earlier…..

*** spoiler alert ***

she goes with him to his sister’s wedding in upstate wisconsin for a few days, goes with him to his old high school, is clearly emotionally invested in him, then ends up being married and calls clooney an escape?  if she is going to be married then we need to see a little more conflict in her.  she needs to be contemplating who she really loves more.  her husband or george.  it just doesn’t flow well at all.

*** spoilers over ***

the film felt flat and uneven the entire time. at one point during the wedding sequence we get a really pseudo documentary style filmmaking with handy cams, lots of crash zooms, way more personal composition.  i love that style of filmmaking, but it completely took me out of a scene that is really supposed to connect me emotionally with the characters.  the entire film has been shot in a completely neutral static way up to this point, and now we get a really jarring stylistic choice for absolutely no reason.

what worked with juno was that i loved the characters.  i wanted to spend more time with them, learn more about them.  i was sad when they were sad, happy when they were happy.  in this film i just didn’t care one way or the other.  after juno i had really high expectations for mr. reitman, but now i’m going to have to rethink my position on the man.


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