Business - as you can imagine - is booming, and Bingham jumps from place to place across the US, up in the air for most of the year without any real home or connections. Rather than feel lonely or empty, he clearly views his lifestyle as the ultimate expression of freedom. He even gives motivational lectures on the merits of discarding the "baggage" of things, homes, even friends and families (he barely sees his own sister, who is soon to be married). On his travels he meets Alex (Farmiga), a woman who helpfully describes herself as "just like you, but with a vagina", and their similar outlook drives their intermittent relationship forward. Soon after, though, he encounters feisty young graduate Natalie (Kendrick), hired by his boss (Jason Bateman) to make their firm more efficient by firing people from a central office via webcam. Bingham, as you can imagine, is not best pleased about the prospect of having his wings clipped, and takes Natalie on a trip in a bid to prove the worth of his face-to-face interactions.
There are plenty of places where this film could have gone very wrong. Bingham's confidence and baggage-free existence could have easily slipped into tiresome smuggery, or worse still, a postmodern satire on Clooney's own real-life bachelor status. However, Clooney's charm and ability to convey goodheartedness despite his words mean that while he may slightly evoke Tom Cruise's magnificently unpleasant carefree singleton in Magnolia, he nevertheless always has your sympathy. Scenes of fired employees reacting to their dismissals (performed by real-life staff re-enacting their own sacking, or saying what they wished they had at the time) could have been overly-sentimental - but like the "couples" scenes in When Harry Met Sally, they succeed in adding a depth of feeling without being cloying or exploitative.
There's been Oscar murmurs about Up In The Air and its cast, and a clutch of Golden Globe nominations already, and they're well-deserved. Where Thank You For Smoking was perhaps too madcap and Juno too wordy, Up In The Air perfectly combines witty dialogue and set-pieces with real emotional connectivity from all three leads. Clooney will take most of the plaudits, but Farmiga and especially Kendrick are more than his equal, and its their spot-on performances that make this movie a modern classic.
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