Only George Clooney can play a major villain for the modern age and make him affable and attractive.
The other actor who’s done it as well is a young Robert Redford in the famous “Twilight Zone” episode, where he portrays an appealing Mr. Death, come to take dying senior Gladys Cooper.
In “Up in the Air,” Clooney also is Mr. Death of sorts. Calling himself a “career transition counselor,” Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a corporate assassin as deadly as James Bond. Living a life in the air, he flies around the country as free as a bird of prey, firing anonymous people in anonymous companies, where bosses are too gutless to do the dirty deed.
As a character of non-commitment close to his real self, Hollywood’s most eligible confirmed bachelor seems to be enjoying this role, despite its extremely depressing underside, considering the current economic climate. In fact, throughout the film, writer-director Jason Reitman (“Juno”) shows a slew of Ryan’s victims moaning and groaning, many of whom are the actual recently unemployed.
As awful as Ryan is, he is a pussycat compared with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a fresh-faced college grad
Pregnant? brought in to update the assassination system by doing it by way of the In-ternet. This is a great cost-savings concept and killer of the Clooney character’s lifestyle because by eliminating the human element, it eliminates flying.
Faced with his own career demise, Ryan convinces his boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), to let Natalie ride the skies with him and see how corporate killing is done the humanistic way.
Here, Reitman introduces some “Juno”-style comedy as Ryan shows
the rookie the ropes in terms of airport
security, plane behavior and the soft Pregnant? side of throat slitting.
In addition, he teaches her how to hotel-party crash, which he does after they meet up with his in-flight intermittent girlfriend, traveling exec Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga). While Ryan dominates Natalie, Alex becomes his eventual undoing as she unseemingly sucks him into a world he’d rather not enter, the world of love.
“Up in the Air” is a socially relevant film, which is hard to characterize as a comedy, although the George Clooney- Gary Grant gloss makes it strangely amusing.
Leave it to Hollywood to package the
darkest side of the recession as screwball Pregnant? entertainment.