Up in the Air: One of 2009’s Best Films

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Over a decade following its theatrical release, Up in the Air remains one of the best films to have been released in 2009.

With the exception of 2014’s Men, Women, and Children, Jason Reitman can do no wrong. Heading into Up in the Air, Reitman was hitting home run after home run.  This was his third feature following both Thank You for Smoking and Juno.  Basing the film on Walter Kirn’s 2001 novel of the same name, he once again hit it out of the ballpark.

Imagine having the nerve to bring in an outside company to fire your employees.  And yet, this is exactly what happens in Jason Reitman’s third outing.  Following Juno, Reitman teams up with George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick.  All four of them would end up receiving Oscar nominations.  It’s one of the best performances of Clooney’s career without a doubt.  Between this, The Descendants, and Michael Clayton, Clooney makes a good run.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) are corporate downsizers.  In essence, the two travel across the country to fire employees.  Natalie is new to the job.  Her ideas aren’t well-received by Ryan.  However, their boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), seems to like the remote-layoff idea.  Well, it’s not something that goes exactly as hoped.  An employee breaks down on screen.  Another one threatens suicide.  This is one of those things that must be taken care of in person.

Work isn’t the only thing going on for Ryan.  His sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), is getting married to Jim (Danny McBride).  Ryan brings Alex (Vera Farmiga) to the wedding after the two hit it off so well on the road.  When Jim gets cold feet, it’s Ryan that comes to the rescue.  Talking someone into a commitment is a change of pace for a man who is frequently advising people to reinvent their life.

Behind the camera, Reitman isn’t afraid to try new things.  It’s interesting to tackle a film about downsizing companies during the Great Recession.  Imagine an old-school filmmaker like Frank Capra or Billy Wilder making this film!  Though for what it’s worth, Kirn’s novel came out in 2001.  At the same time, I like how Reitman includes non-actors in a montage at the opening.  It’s a great credit to the film.  They also bring in Zach Galifianakis and frequent Reitman actor J.K Simmons, too.

In another universe, Up in the Air could have co-starred Ellen Page as Natalie.  Seeing as how Anna Kendrick blew the performance out of the water, it’s really hard to imagine anyone else in the role.  Kendrick brings her trademark wit to the breakout performance–one of many reasons why the Pitch Perfect star is a fan favorite.

While the film is just shy of a decade, it holds up rather well.  That being said, some of the film’s premise is sort of hard to watch when you factor in the global pandemic.  There’s nothing funny watching people getting fired left and right in this environment.  Don’t get me wrong–Up in the Air is still a beautifully written film with a trio of powerhouse performances.

DIRECTOR:  Jason Reitman
SCREENWRITERS:  Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
CAST:  George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey, Amy Morton, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Lowell

Up in the Air opened on December 4, 2009. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.