In an industry cluttered with remakes, recycling of old plots and that is more addicted to effect-laden presentation than substance, Ivan Reitman is a breath of fresh — smoke-free — air.
In this case, it is a fresh breath Up in the Air. Smoke free for the unknowing is reference and reverence for Thank You for Smoking, the 2005 effort that put Reitman on the radar of fans of great writing, great acting and great films.
Working around themes introduced in his 2005 film, Reitman casts George Clooney as Ryan Bingham. Companies without the courage to lay off large groups of employees hire Bingham’s company to do the execution.
The irony in Reitman’s film is that Bingham is going to be downsized by a rapidly changing corporate environment that says technology can do this better. His job — according to 30-something rising star Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) — can be done easier in front of computers with cameras and a two-way link.
Bingham’s spends 90 percent of the year on airplanes, in airports and motel rooms and loathes being at home. To demonstrate that Keener’s premise doesn’t work, he takes her on a road trip. Bingham also has a romance going with Vera Farmiga’s Alex Goran and they juggle schedules to meet up for non-committed romance.
Clooney and co-stars Farmiga and Kendrick give award-worthy performances and help sell a concept that is intelligent, fast and funny.
Reitman touches you in uncommon ways. Other than a few actors for plot purposes, the people his characters lay off are real and recently-axed. They share their pain and confusion with the camera. In brilliantly written scenes, Reitman dissects a pathetic, possession-addicted society and points out that there are simpler, easier ways to live and that we often follow the money and not our dreams.
Reitman gets America’s corporate culture. Don’t let a premise that sounds as boring as a corporate board meeting keep you from catching what may be the year’s best movie.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for language and mature themes. It opened Wednesday, Dec. 23 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.