Thursday, February 23, 2012

Up In The Air- The movie that gets you feeling lower than the ground

2010 was inarguably a fantastic year for movies. Just look at the list of nominations for best picture, and you'll see films such as Inglorious Basterds, A Serious Man, Up, Avatar (not a great film per se, but impressive in a lot of ways) and District 9. No those aren't all the nominees, just the ones I felt could've all been deserving of Best Picture (which eventually went to The Hurt Locker). I am ommitting several films from the list that I never saw, including Precious, The Blind Side, and An Education (all of which I've heard good things about). There was another nominee however, that at least in my mind, rose above all those other amazing films.

Do you remember hearing about this one? I don't even know many people who've seen it. It opened to just over $11 million, placing it at a whopping #6 for its opening weekend. No one was surprised that it didn't debut at #1, considering it came out during the second week of James Cameron's juggernaut Avatar, which still grossed over $75 million. Also ahead of Up In The Air were Sherlock Homes, The Blind Side, It's Complicated (starting to get a little shaky), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (are you freaking kidding me?). The movie was profitable however, raising over $80 million domestically (and doubling that number internationally), which is not too shabby considering it's production budget of $25 million..

This about sums it up. No, not really.

Now some of you  might have read the caption on the poster I posted above and say, "Wait? Does that say from the Director of Juno? Count me out!" Let me start by saying I actually liked Juno. Phew, now that that's off my chest, I can finish telling you what I really wanted to say about this point. Up In The Air is better than Juno in every way, so if you weren't a fan of this:

"Haters gonna hate."

Or even this somehow:

"Haters still gonna hate."

Breathe easy knowing this is a completely different movie with a completely different tone. In fact, let's discuss the tone of Up In The Air. Let's take another look at the promotional poster:

Awww! The story of a man ready to make a connection! It just warms my heart. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is NOT ready to make a connection, for about, well, THE ENTIRE MOVIE! Bingham is a cold businessman, whose business is to ruthelessly fire random strangers for their spineless bosses. He lives his life out of a suitcase, and even gives seminars using this same suitcase, outlining his extremely isolationist world view. Bingham lived his whole life without ever getting close to anyone, taking solace in the crowded walkways of the airports he spends the majority of his life in. There is some truth to the slogan as Bingham eventually warms up to the idea of forming relationships with other human beings including his sister and a female version of himself, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga).

Let's take a minute to talk about Alex. She is awesome, especially for Ryan. Their first conversation revolves around their elite status in various car rental programs, and the colors of their frequent flier mile garnering credit cards. They have sex, multiple times, whenever they find themselves in the same city. Neither wants anything serious, at least at first. The more time they spend together, accompanied by the young new firing specialist Natalie Keenr (Anna Kendrick), the closer they become.

Let me make a brief interjection to discuss Kendrick's performance. It is nothing short of incredible. Thankfully, the Academy recognized her, and awarded her with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Clooney and Farmiga were also each nominated for their respective roles). In fact, this movie had 6 Academy Award nominations, including Best Achievement in Directing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Best Writing for an Adapted Screenplay. Enough of their opinions though, back to mine.

Keener plays the energetic young optimistic to Clooney's jaded pessimist. The combination of these two provides for some incredible interactions, and after a fairly lengthy time, Keener makes Ryan start to question the way he had been living his life. This change in thought eventually materializes as Bingham asks for Alex to accompany him to his sister's wedding (an event he almost certainly would've missed if not for Natalie's intervention).

After an amazing weekend, it is readily apparent that Ryan had fallen in love.

"Wait wait wait, isn't the word cynic in your blog's title? Why has everything you've posted so far been so positive?"

Well here it goes. If spoilers bother you, stop reading now.

For real.

Okay, well Ryan decides to make a spontaneous unannounced visit to Alex's Chicago home. Happy ending? NOT EVEN CLOSE!

The Chicago scene is one of the most crushing things I've ever seen in a movie. You have just spend around an hour and a half watching Bingham transform from a cold recluse into an integrated member of society, with feelings of compassion, love, and all the other things that entails. Then he gets absolutely BURNED by Alex. I'll leave to exact details out so you still have a reason to watch, but suffice it to say, this is far from a fairy tale ending.

It hurts, I know.

Later, what should be the happiest moment of his life instead becomes a bland occurence, drained of any significance as only a tragedy of this magnitude could cause.

"Something happy happens though before the credits roll, right?"

Wrong. After tasting the forbidden fruit, God locks him back in the Garden, trapping him there with complete knowledge of what life can be. And then he gets on a plane, and flies into the night.

Holy crap, that is depressing. The reason I absolutely love this movie though is not for the simple fact that it has a non-traditional ending, or the fact that it is truly depressing, but I love this movie because it feels so real. Things like this happen on a daily basis somewhere in the world, and yet no one ever makes movies about them. I love when movies break away from the traditional Hollywood mold, ESPECIALLY the traditional romantic comedy mold.

Can we get more movies like Up In The Air please? It might just make me a little less cynical about the state of the film industry.


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