An odd ramble about the comedic & dramatic merits of the largely forgotten Up In The Air.
“I tell people how to avoid commitment” | “What kind of fucked up message is that?!
A bizarre blend of conventional studio dramedy hijinks laced with the poignancy of an offbeat, independent affair, Up In The Air is a peculiar beast. Despite being nominated for a handful of Oscars, it hasn’t built much of a legacy in the seven (jeez…) years since its release – beyond kickstarting the wonderful Anna Kendrick’s career, of course. Even its director Jason Reitman – who once seemed poised for greatness – has faded into obscurity. It’s a film I’d never expect to come up in conversation today – but in 2009, it couldn’t have been more relevant.
Released hot on the heels of the worst economic crisis in recent memory, the film’s take on the jobs industry and unemployment felt very timely. In a period defined by despair and disillusionment, Reitman finds a nice balance between comedy and depth – imbuing his film with enough light-hearted humour to counterbalance the grim, depressing reality of the subject matter. Yet you never lose sight of just how bad these people have it (even if that’s occasionally conveyed in a somewhat heavy handed fashion).
Intertwined with this tale of humour and despair is an even more effective commentary – a contemplation on life, expectations – and whether it’s easier without all those pesky emotional attachments. Even though the film does ultimately come down quite hard against isolation and seclusion, it presents an interesting counter-argument along the way – one no doubt buoyed by Clooney’s devilishly charming smiles & sales pitches. There’s something oddly romantic about the way it portrays life on the road – adventurous yet cosy, fast-paced yet peaceful…
I only mention this because watching (and re-watching) this film over the last seven years seems to have sub-consciously changed how I view air travel. Where security once made me nervous (particularly as a person of colour), being randomly selected for additional screening now makes me chuckle. The entire journey from check-in to landing feels far less uncomfortable because of my fond feelings towards this film. It’s a weird thing to take from a movie that touches on so many different themes – but for some reason that’s what jumped out at me here.
Up In The Air may have been forgotten by most people, but perhaps Jason Reitman can take solace in the fact it left a warm long-term impression on me.
I used to watch this film so frequently, but I hadn’t seen it in years before this viewing. I was scared it wouldn’t hold up for me – thankfully, it did.