March Issue 2010

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 14 years ago

Topical movies rarely have a long shelf life. As the issues they explore quickly fade, such movies no longer resonate with a public that has moved on. It is too early to say that Jason Reitman’s Up in the Airwill break the mould, but this is a movie that transcends its subject matter.

The economic crisis that has engulfed the US may not seem like the most humourous subject around but Reitman, without ignoring the human cost of losing one’s job, has managed to show the different ways people deal with being fired — including with gallows humour. Up in the Air stars George Clooney as a man with an unenviable job. He is a hired gun who flies around the country telling people they have been laid off, usually with a kind word, a shrug, a joke or two and lots of encouragement.

Clooney is an unattached man, one who is unable to anchor himself to one place and lives for the travel and adventures of his job. In an ironic turn, the man who is responsible for telling people they are no longer employed, soon finds that his own job may be threatened. Natalie Keener, as an ambitious young woman seeking advancement, formulates a plan to replace Clooney with a machine. She argues that firing people by web chat would be more economical for the company. In a last-ditch effort to save his job, Clooney takes Keener along with him to show the importance of human contact when bearing bad news.

Clooney, Keener and Vera Farmiga, a wandering soul who meets her soul mate in Clooney, all deliver fine performances but the true stars of the movie are the helpless, blameless people who no longer have the security of a job. Director and writer Reitman used many people who had lost their jobs in real life rather than casting actors for these roles. The pathos and believability they bring to their performances gives Up in the Air its air of authenticity.

Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.