TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Telluride 2009 Review: Jason Reitman's Up in the Air
by Alex Billington
September 5, 2009
I've been waiting and waiting to see Jason Reitman's Up in the Air ever since it was first announced way back in May of 2008. And I just walked out of the first ever screening of the film tonight at the Telluride Film Festival. And I loved it. It's everything I wanted it to be, everything I was expecting, even after reading Walter Kirn's book that it's based on. Not only is it Reitman's most personal film to date, but it's his most polished as well. I have so many things to mention about it that I just wanted to get down my thoughts before they fade away. It really hit me on a very personal level as well, which is why I enjoyed it so much.
If you didn't already know, Up in the Air is about a man named Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), whose job it is to fly around the country and fire people from their jobs since their bosses can't do it themselves. The first thing I'll note about this film is that it's an entirely unconventional story. It's not a romantic comedy, even though it has the elements of a romantic comedy, it's a story about a guy who thinks he knows how life works, but discovers that he really doesn't. And it's about his goal of reaching 10 million frequent flier miles. But of course, he meets a girl along the way, encounters problems at his work, and learns a lot about life.
What I particularly love about Up in the Air is Reitman's attention to detail. If you travel a lot, you know all the finer details of checking in, making it through security, traveling light, all of that. And this film captures all of those details in such an amusingly accurate way; it really connected with me. I had the exact same experiences as seen in the film at the airport(s) on my way over to Telluride. I'm sure other less talented filmmakers wouldn't have even tried to include all that. It's those little details, the attention Reitman puts into every frame, that makes this so damn entertaining to watch. Right down to the way that his establishing shot for each new city they go to is a view from an airplane, a subtle touch that made a big difference for me.
The film does have a few issues in its third act. It hits some rough spots as it progresses on, although they're mixed in so well with the humor and the more sentimental moments, that it's easy to look past them. I won't ruin any of plot points of the story, as they're important to see play out in the context of the film, but there are some scenes that very briefly took the wind of my sails in the second half. But, as only Reitman could do, he pulled me right back into the story swiftly, and I was able to start smiling and laughing again by the end. Given that Reitman wrote and directed this (unlike Juno), his own life experiences can be felt in the film.
Lastly, I can't end this reaction without expressing my admiration for Anna Kendrick, who I've fallen even more in love with after this. Kendrick plays a young hotshot newcomer to Bingham's company that wants to change the way they work. His boss makes him take her out on the road to show her the ropes and not only is it funny to see all of that (she's an air travel newbie), but her relationship with Bingham I think is the best part of the film. She goes toe-to-toe with Clooney in a big way, which was beyond impressive for an up-and-coming actress like her. Overall I'd say Jason Reitman knocked this one out of the park, his best film yet.
Telluride Rating: 8.5 out of 10