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February 04, 2010

Up in the Air


Warning: Spoilers ahead. I'll try to save them for the end of the post so you have time to avert your eyes.

I saw Up in the Air a few weeks ago, but just realized I never posted about it. I haven't seen any of the other Best Picture nominees yet (working on it!), but I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if this won. The script was witty but not overwritten - and made me want to read the book - and the movie was beautifully done, all around. I thought they did an extremely good job of showing how similar all the airports and cities seemed to Ryan without actually making it boring and repetitive to the viewers. I'm one of those people who loves airports and planes, so this movie actually left me with the overwhelming urge to travel, which I realize is not quite the point. But still.

Confession: Before this movie, I'm not sure I could have picked George Clooney out of a lineup. (Rosemary Clooney? Sure!) I know, I know. I just looked at IMDb and the other thing of his I've seen is his guest spot on Friends. Yes, this seems ridiculous to me, too, and I clearly have some catching up to do. But anyway, I thought he did a very good job, and it made me want to watch more of his movies. He made the character work in all his isolation and prickliness but seem likeable at the same time, which is quite something.

Vera Farmiga was fine as Alex, but among the women, I thought the standout was clearly Anna Kendrick as Natalie. I think her Jessica (with shades of Cordelia Chase, no?) is one of the highlights of the Twilight movies, and I'm excited that she seems to be taking her career in this classy, adult direction. And I had to repress a squee when I saw Chris Lowell's name in the opening credits. I've loved him since Veronica Mars and I think he does some really good work on Private Practice, even though that show as a whole tends to be something of a mess. He did a fine if small job here as Ryan's assistant, although I hope he gets to play a part that doesn't involve answering phones soon. (He's the receptionist/midwife on PP. Yes, I know. I told you it's a mess.)

And now, a few words about the ending. A few friends had warned me before I saw the movie that the ending was disappointing and/or would anger me. It didn't. At all. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if some of the people who said that know of my "happy endings only" rule for fan fiction. I guess I look for very different things in different forms of media. That might warrant its own post.) Anyway, I went into the movie expecting a drama, rather than a romantic comedy, so the ending didn't surprise me. And my dad had recommended the movie, and he's rather known for liking depressing things. (He says he was surprised by the ending, though.) I assumed from the beginning that Alex wasn't exactly what she appeared, and as soon as Ryan got on the plane for Chicago, I figured that either she was married or she had made up a fake identity/given him a fake address.

I liked the ending better this way than I would have if it had been a typical You've Got Mail style sudden revelation and ecstatic declaration of love. (Not that I don't love You've Got Mail, but I don't want everything to be like that.) Ryan developed a lot internally over the course of the movie, but that doesn't magically change anything. He made a small step in writing the recommendation for Anna. But I found it refreshingly honest that he couldn't actually change his life that much, at least not all at once. Even if you have revelations, change your own priorities, decide you want to be someone else, it doesn't mean that the past is erased or that you no longer have to live with the consequences of all of the previous decisions you've made. This ending made Up in the Air both truer and more poignant. (And I wouldn't be surprised if the less-happy ending helped it get its Oscar nominations.)

Posted by Kat at February 4, 2010 11:00 AM

I agree with you. I didn't particularly like Up in the Air, but I could respect how well it did what it set out to do. I thought George Clooney did a great job portraying someone with a crummy job description and a rather limited life view, but still making him a genial character. I figured the point of the movie was not to give us a happy ending, but instead to offer hope that change is possible, even if it's not always in the ways we might hope or expect.

Posted by: sprite at February 4, 2010 11:31 AM
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