Everything’s ‘Up in the Air’

Unlike their global neighbors, Americans define themselves by their careers. So if an American lose his jobs, he loses more than his livelihood; he loses his identity. And without an identity, what does he have left? Jason Reitman answers that question in his existential film, “Up in the Air.”

The film centers around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), whose identity is defined by Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” tagline. In Bingham’s words, “I work for another company who lends me out to pussies like Steve’s boss who don’t have the courage to sack their own employees.”

To fulfill his work as a professional firer, he clocks in a lot of air time. That’s easy for Bingham, a man with no baggage — a real cowboy who can travel city to city laying people off.

But as you can expect, a girl changes things. Two girls, to be more precise. First, he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga), another frequent flyer with no strings attached — whose sexting and one-night-stands between layovers cause him to have second thoughts. Second, he meets Natalie (Anna Kendrick), an self-assured twenty-something college grad who wants to revolutionize his work, replacing Skype chats with in-person layoffs. Between the two, perhaps Bingham’s job won’t be “up in the air” (both figuratively and literally). Or at least Reitman and Sheldon Turner’s witty screenplay will keep you guessing.

“You never want to get married?” Natalie pries.

Bingham grins like the Cheshire cat.

Not only does Reitman’s use of triple ententres and wordplay rival Shakespearean wit, but he also manages to explore the philosophical nature of life. (This is done through a series of interviews with the newly unemployed and the incorporation of the Bingham’s family — because as John Donne argued, “No man is an island.”) Witty and philosophical? Now that’s a tall order, or at least a high one.

“Up in the Air” was directed by Jason Reitman, and written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner. It’s based on Walter Kirn’s novel, “Airworld.”

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