Film Review: Up In The Air

When you watch a lot of films, as I do, it becomes apparent that you weave from title to title primarily by director or actor more than genre. There are, of course, times when you’ll simply be in the mood for a comedy, or a thriller, or a bit of action but primarily, it’s a case of finding a performer you like and working through their back catalogue until they get over shadowed by somebody else driving you onto a new path. At the moment it’s obvious that I’m currently being drawn to Anna Kendrick: Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, 50/50 and now Up In The Air all being watched in the last month alone.

I have to admit though, I’d never heard of Up In The Air until I was flicking through Kendrick’s filmography, which is actually somewhat surprising because it’s rated highly and with a cast that includes: George Clooney, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis, as well as Vera Farmiga, who received an Oscar nomination for her performance, part of me would have expected it to seen it, or even heard of it before now!

George Clooney - Up In The Air

Lead by Clooney, he brings his usual touch of arrogance and manicure to his performance but for me, this time, it just doesn’t work. He lacks any real sense of humour or humility and while he doesn’t come across as starched and stuffy, I just could never quite shake the feeling that he looked too glossy, too perfect, too designer. He always looked like a Hollywood star, a hair never out of place and every tooth overly white. You can almost smell the aftershave, and as a result, I never relaxed around him or really believed in anything he was meant to feel. I liked him as a person but we never really connected because I never felt he was actually real.

Where I did fully connect though was with Farmiga and I can see why she got an Oscar nomination for her role because she steals the film. As a character while still slightly outside the reality of day to day life, she does feel normal and believable and is unhampered by any of the problems that beset Clooney. This isn’t the type of film that is packed with emotion or deep thoughtful insight, but Farmiga works her way inside you in that subtle way that leaves you never truly moved but always constantly empathising. You just warm to her and like her as a person and care about her as the story unfolds around her, even if her big twist is easily and obviously predictable.

Anna Kendrick - Up In The Air

Having spoken about two sides of the main casting pyramid, I have to finish off with Anna Kendrick, after all it’s she who brought me here. You never forget that it’s Anna Kendrick, which is both a good and bad thing, because while she has a natural talent, she also looks like everything is micromanaged inside her head. It just looks like another performance of lines and cues and overall, sadly, she just looks out of her depth to those around her. She doesn’t really convey any conviction in her role and the story line she’s attempting to deliver just seems a little bit too mature for her. She’s not bad but she’s not right either. It’s just too often a case of looking like a rabbit caught in the head lights and while there are moments when she interacts with others that you start to feel something towards her it’s not enough, and I never really noticed any change in the strength of the film when she wasn’t on screen.

It didn’t help Kendrick that the responsibility the plot entrusts in her, around which the entire film is dictated, is just a little bit too implausible to really work. The film is great when it looks at human emotion and compassion and what it means to be loved and wanted and needed, but they’ve wrapped this up in an story that just unfolds impossibly. They are rocking a boat for no good reason and in a way that nobody could be foolish enough to believe would, or could ever work. It meant that the longer the story went on the more unnatural it became and the more I longed for the simplicity of the character interaction away from their “day to day lives”. It just felt like a good idea, and a vehicle for a very clever discussion, that became less and less interesting the longer it spoke.

George Clooney & Vera Farmiga - Up In The Air

While these problems sound like they should be enough to destroy the film they don’t. It survives because, as I said, the characters hold everything together through their relationships and manage to show that beneath the surface, Up In The Air, has a friendly, warm and inviting heart that will leave you smiling and laughing and happy. There are also just enough clever touches and interesting themes littered throughout, those almost blink and you miss it touches, that play out to smooth over the larger gaping cracks in the plot and survive to constantly remind you that the film does have something worth noting about it.

I had no idea what to really expect from Up In The Air and it has left me pleasantly surprised. I was never bored and happily engrossed throughout. Yes it’s lacking in places, but that doesn’t really matter because overall, the good points outweigh the bad. It’s a hidden gem of a film that is worth watching. I just have to make the decision now, stick with Kendrick or jump ship to Farmiga.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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