“Up in the Air” – a film grounded in reality

Up in the Air
George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham in "Up in the Air" a film from Paramount Pictures.

Rated R

Directed by Jason Reitman

Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: Lots of product placement in this movie, sometimes distracting from what is otherwise a great film.

Before I expound on “Up in the Air” I want to make a statement. Apparently American Airlines paid a lot of money to be the featured airline in this film, however, you should beware the only airline that has ever official lost my luggage was AA. I’ve flown with them three times and all three times I experienced numerous delays. I was once stuck at the Salt Lake City airport for hours with no apology or explanation.   American Airlines sucks!

With that out of the way, I will give you my review. This movie reminded me of “Lost in Translation“ with a little more levity. Clooney usually plays a too-cool-for-school fast-talking guy, but his character in “Up in the Air” is a little more believable than some of those previous characters. In fact, Ryan Bingham is realistically average and even a little  dull.

Bingham, a forty-something suit, spends most of his time in the air. When he is on the ground, he is a corporate downsizing expert, meaning he fires people for a living. He travels over 300 days a year. His one goal in life is to reach 10 million frequent flier miles, something only six other people on AA have accomplished.

Unfortunately for Bingham, a bright young Cornell graduate has recently infiltrated his company, bringing with her new ideas on how they can streamline their firing practices. Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick of “Twilight“ fame, has devised a plan for video conferencing firing – ground the experts and put them behind a computer screen with a video camera. No fuss, no mess.

Bingham is not happy about this plan and his boss (Jason Bateman) decides to let Bingham take Keener on his next round of firings so she  can see what  it is really all about. This trip turns into more than Bingham bargained for, forcing him take stock in his own mundane existence.

This movie is sad, funny and insightful. Anna Kendrick holds her own in the shadow of George Clooney. In fact, being a “Twilight“ alum, I wasn’t expecting much from Kendrick, but she surprised me with her exceptional acting ability.

“Up in the Air” has a well-constructed, solid storyline, is well acted and brings to life the lifeless world of airline travel and cookie-cutter chain hotel lodging. I highly recommend this movie and hope to see it do well at the Oscars. It is one of the best of 2009.


  1. Good review. My husband had made the same comment about it having same feel as “Lost in Translation”, which is one of his favorites. I left this movie somewhat unsure how I felt about it. And frankly, that’s not an unpleasant thing. Made a nice change from crowd-pleasing films. I was somewhat sad but the realistic quality you mention made that okay. I too hope to see this do well at awards time. Even though it didn’t receive any Golden Globes, I’m glad to see it had several nominations.


  2. You lose 2 points for gratuitous product placement in your review. Remember, there is no such thing as bad publicity and AA will be sending you a complimentary bag of stale peanuts for your efforts on their behalf. I can’t wait to see this movie – partly because George Clooney is a perfectly good age-appropriate crush – but will probably wait for DVD. It has no special effects and I’m cheap and lazy.


  3. I’m gonna see it…on DVD. I’m w/ Suz–cheap and lazy. 🙂


  4. Thanks for all the comments ladies!

    Suz, even if AA sends me two free tickets roundtriip I wouldn’t fly with them… well, if they were roundtrip to Paris, I might reconsider. Who needs theeir luggage in Paris? Just a baret and a cig, right?

    And Sue, I’m fasinated that your husband also thought “Lost in Translation.” I had not read that in any other reviews. Great minds! I do think this movie will be nominated come Oscar time, but for some reason I don’t feel it’s going to pick up any statues.


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