“I’m like my mother. I stereotype; it’s faster”
Armed with this terse, yet disgustingly rational sentiment, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) embodies the tantalizingly intangible nature of the film. As the main character, he moves throughout life confident about his understanding of other people. However, it seems that any viewer coming in with preexisting expectations of a romantic comedy, tragedy, or any other belabored genre of 21st century films will be left feeling hollow when the credits finally roll. Up in the Air begins to defy expectations long before you step up to the ticket booth.
This is a movie that defies categorization from the start, and it seems that even the production company struggled to determine how to market the film. The two different trailers produced suggest two entirely different movies. The 'final' trailer for the movie, which has been viewed on YouTube well over a million times, is made up entirely of one of Ryan’s monologues overlaid on clips from various scenes on the movie in no discernible order. Reading the comments of viewers of this trailer show the confusion this trailer created:
"what is the movie about i didn't get anything from the trailer-..?"
"wonderful movie, terrible trailer"
"I really like this movie, but this was a terrible trailer. It literally could not make me want to see it less."
Considering that this ad is what many individuals saw before going to the film it is no surprise when user reviews appear online saying that they did not get what they expected out of the film. This exact same criticism can be attributed to the other trailer, which played extensively on television and depicted a much different film.
Instead of a morose monologue with very little plot, this trailer instead introduced Clooney's character with a witty opening line and then proceeded to elaborate on the various plot-points by piecing clips together. By the end of this trailer the viewer is left an entirely different (yet still not entirely correct) depiction of Up in the Air. This one has promised through the witty one-liners, funny clips, and even upbeat background music that you are about to see a typical romantic comedy. In reality, the film is more of an anti-romantic comedy.
Because of the different tones presented in both trailers, Up in the Air either pleases audiences by defying the conventions of the romantic comedy genre or disappointed those expecting a happy ending. While critical review of the film was overwhelmingly positive, many reviewers and users felt that the film did not live up to the expectations it created. “I was looking forward to a quirky little romance,” one viewer complained, not the “dreadful movie that ensued.” Other viewers voiced similar complaints: the film dragged on forever, it was boring, and the ending was a “complete downer.” Likewise, in the comment section of the New York Times, one reader wrote, “the marketing for this film wants you to believe you're going to see a light comedy/romance—you won't. You will watch person after person being laid-off, and quite frankly, it left me entirely sad and manipulated.” By comparing the trailers, it becomes clear why some viewers had expectations of seeing a lighter romantic comedy than the bleak dramedy about corporate callousness and one man’s commitment woes that Reitman delivers. It is this expectation, it seems, that adds to this dichotomy of opinions, between viewers who rave about the film and others who deplore it.
The fulfillment from watching this movie comes from expectations that are either met or defied. For some, Up in the Air ranked highly among other movies in 2010 because it strayed away from conventional romantic endings and made emotional connections to the idea of family, romance, and unemployment. Up in the Air manages to portray both the tragedy of detachment from other human connections, as well as the tragedy experience by recently fired men and women. For others, the movie defied their expectations of romantic comedies and their typically happy endings, which left them dissatisfied. For the reason that it was sad, depressing or not enjoyable, Up in the Air failed to satiate a small population’s needs for pure entertainment. The general sentiment however, seemed that people liked the movie. Reviews ranging from the NY Times to Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a rating of 3.5 out 4 and 90%, respectively.
The trailers, though set up a distinct mood for viewers, can only go far as to allow viewers to set expectations for the movie as well as to apply stereotypes. They cannot however predict viewer satisfaction. As Ryan Bingham says in the movie, “To know me is to fly with me.” As the film progresses, we join Ryan in crowded airports and empty lounges, gaining an understanding of the loneliness he struggles to ignore. Moreover, when we see him become increasingly connected to his sister and to Alex, the changes he undergoes means so much more to us than if we did not “fly” with him. Similarly, to know the movie is to watch it, and only by doing so can we determine our own reviews on how good it was.