Ken Levine, Emmy winning writer/director/producer declared Up In The Air his pick for movie of the year. I saw few enough 2009 movies that I couldn’t say. I will posit, though, that the movie is the best 2009 movie I’ve seen thus far.
What I don’t know is what I can tell you that you don’t already know without revealing spoilers. I’m particularly cognizant of that, because when I saw it back on January 9, right after the opening of the new Delaware Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library, I went home and told my wife what I thought was an obscure piece of information. But the next day, after she went to see the film, she declared that my tiny mention helped her figure something out that I regret that she sussed out.
Surely, you know that the film stars George Clooney as a guy emotionally at arms length, who hates his 43 days a year at home, being much happier being a VIP on planes, car rental places and hotels. His job is to come into towns, fire people because the management of the companies are wussses, and move on. Vera Farmiga is his detached near-equal. Writer/director Jason Reitman had previously made Thank You for Smoking and Juno, both of which I enjoyed, and he has adapted the screenplay from Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name, which I did not read.
You may have read how real out-of-work people were filmed talking about their laid off experiences, not knowing initially that they were being recorded for a movie. It was quite an effective technique. However, J.K. Simmons, a character actor you’ll likely recognize as J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies, Chief Pope from The Closer, or Juno’s dad, is also compelling.
I should mention that Vera Farmiga was featured in a story in the local paper because she lives in not-that-far-away Ulster County, NY.
A review wondered if a family event was necessary for the film, and decided in the end that it was. Whereas I thought that event was critical. (That was vague.)
Ultimately, I think two additional factors, other than the writing, directing and acting, really wowed me. One is that the current economic downturn made this movie just right for its time, much the way The China Syndrome, coming out just before Three Mile Island in 1979, made it very topical. The other thing, probably counter-intuitively, is that while George Clooney played a character named Ryan, he also was George Clooney, noted movie star. And some part of my brain wondered if Ryan would AND George will end up alone; somehow this made it even more interesting.