Last night, the Golden Globes awarded a gong to Jason Reitman for the screenplay for “Up in the Air”. This surprised me because I thought that the screenplay was one of the weakest aspects of this film.
The film began quite well but around the middle it began to wander off the track before coming back to the main theme of the alienation of a solitary and self-absorbed life coupled with a very implausible career of firing employees. George Clooney has the title role which does not sit well on him. He is okay but unimpressive especially when he decides to go mellow and become a nice man at his sister’s wedding. The whole bit about the wedding was schmaltzy and weak.
George’s character has a pragmatic sexual relationship with a rather unattractive person who is supposed to be the female version of the same callous character that George is. There is supposed to be a twist in the film but it’s not really a surprise. She was too unbelievable anyway. And that’s what is wrong with this film. The characters are one-dimensional. Clooney=selfish bastard, his playmate=also selfish, his boss=uber selfish. We get it. They are not nice people and they wreak havoc on the lives of fired employees.
I can’t help but wonder how the Brits and the French would have handled this theme. They would no doubt be more subtle and sophisticated. Unfortunately, Americans just can’t resist explaining everything. Even when the village idiot shouts “Enough, I understand what you’re getting at!” Americans have to continue with their examples and incidents until you wave the white flag. It’s often what is left unsaid that has the greatest impact and I wish that American movies would adopt that approach.
The only saving spark in the whole film is the young assistant that George takes on his trips. She at least provides some of the humour in the film. After trying to be dispassionate she discovers that the job is too soul-destroying. But then how many of us could last in that lousy job? Why would a company outsource its firing to strangers, anyhow? It simply is too incredible.
So what did I enjoy about the film, if anything? Well, it had no special effects, no violence, no car chases and no crudity. So that was good. I have to confess that I thought Reitman’s other effort, “Juno” was also a bit off. So perhaps I just don’t like his films. I am in the minority, however, so there you are.