Reviewed By:Sarah Stiltner, Kevin Havel, Elliott Liu, Jennifer Hamilton
Up in the Air is all about connections-the flight connections, the lack of connections with people, the personal connections with the fired employees, and the connection the audience makes with the movie-and it is this last connection that determines the over-arching love or hatred of an unconventional ending.
Ryan Bingham, a corporate workaholic lives 322 days on the road as a professional job "termination specialist." While one would not necessarily connect with such a profession and such a person in the current economic climate, an audience is particularly drawn in and connected to the film by George Clooney's poignant acting and passionate adherence to the role. As Entertainment Weekly says "If Ryan had been played by anyone but George Clooney, we might not believe in (or like) him.
Although the audience makes a strong connection to our protagonist, expert critics warn viewers against sympathizing too much with Ryan. Ebert writes, "George Clooney plays Bingham as one of those people you meet but never get to know." This false connection persuades some viewers to observe the film as another romantic comedy and not as the social commentary it truly is. In the New York Times, another critic explains, "Certainly you can fall for Bingham, maybe even shed a tear for him, though don't get carried away (as he does) or mistake him for some kind of hero. The truer tragedy here, as the repeated images of fired men and women suggest, doesn't belong to him." People who like romantic comedies and dramas tend to grow emotionally attached to characters and see his failure to find love as the tragedy when, in fact, the real tragedy is the reality infused in the film and the devastating effects the loss of jobs has on individuals, families and communities. The more romantic viewer may not find entertainment value or emotional or intellectual satisfaction from the atypical, rather unromantic ending, leading to the disparity in connections and polarity of reviews of the movie.
The beauty of this movie is that it cannot be pigeon-holed into one category. The well-written script includes pieces of witty humor, personal drama, and romantic touches. A New Yorker writer claims, "The film is a hybrid. Its backdrop is despair, but the foreground action has the silvery zest of a comedy." Director Jason Reitman (who also directed "Juno" and "Thank You for Smoking") creates cinematic magic, balancing the multiple aspects of the movie and the great character interactions while maintaining a personal connection to the audience even after the credits have rolled.