Up in the Air
Posted by Michael Flores | Movies, What's Free Wednesday

Lots of Fetchland readers already subscribe to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or even Marvel Unlimited.

… Which begs the question: When you have access to an almost limitless plethora of entertainment options, which ones should you pick?

“What’s Free Wednesday” is a weekly Fetchland feature spotlighting something great to read or watch available on one or more entertainment services. “Free” once you’ve paid for it, if you grok 🙂

Up in the Air

Free on:

  • Netflix

Up in the Air is a movie about mastery, specifically a man who’s mastered the art of firing people as well as the art of flying across the country to do so. But it’s also a story of vulnerability and the way it creeps up on those who think themselves experts at being invulnerable – those very same masters in their fields. So, who better to play the master of this universe than Mr. George Clooney? Nobody, that’s who. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a picture of efficiency both in the work of firing people and up in the air. The airport is his hometown and the actual plane his home; it doesn’t matter where because he’s happy in all of them and has created systems of comfort to keep it that way. He’s one of those speakers who inspires self-help conferences full of suits sitting at eternally long tables. He is a certified expert in his field – a dangerous position for anyone.

As they say, all things that rise must fall… and when you’re in a plane all the time it’s certainly a long way down. He loves the air up there, though it’s thin and cloudy with prepackaged politeness instead of human connection. And that’s just how Ryan likes it. He’d rather be anywhere than home at his sterile, empty apartment in Omaha where he spends the least time possible. Hotels are your true home sweet home, after all, when you measure happiness and success by frequent flyer miles. Thus, Ryan is a happy guy as long as he’s Up in the Air.

Enter Positive Ponytail Girl into Ryan Bingham’s world: The perfectly cast Anna Kendrick in her breakout role as Natalie Keener. She’s fresh out of college and knows everything about his industry that can be learned in a classroom. In fact, Natalie knows so much about Bingham’s business of outsourced corporate firing, she’s at Ryan’s company to revolutionize the entire enterprise. Her first order of business: grounding Bingham and all his coworkers. In other words, murdering his bliss. He’s horrified at the prospect of losing his 322 travel days per year / his greatest point of pride. If there’s one thing Ryan doesn’t want it’s actually living day after day in his barren apartment in Omaha. This man’s only truly alive Up in the Air. But if that’s Ryan’s weakness, all knowing Natalie has an even more glaring Achilles. She’s never actually fired anyone. So, her proposition for computer conference methods of terminating people in bummer Skype calls all over the world may just be a pipe dream when put into practice. At least that’s what Bingham sets out to prove upon hearing her plans for his company.

Meanwhile in his life on the road Ryan’s develops a connection (in and out of the sack) with Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a frequent business traveler who shares his particular joys and woes of loyalty cards, free cookies, and priority check-in. As they bond romantically and playfully awaken Natalie to the realities of business outside the classroom it starts to feel like Up in the Air may tiptoe into romantic comedy territory. But then Bingham is tasked with convincing his sister’s fiancé to marry her when the guy gets cold feet on their wedding day. Though Ryan’s a master at easing the bite of words like “termination” and “fired,” with softer terms like “career transition counseling,” when it comes to talking about marriage he’s downright klunky. He agrees that, yes, there is no point and it’s true and we do all die alone anyway. Then Bingham realizes he’s not in that room for his own sake, really, but for his sister. So, he locks into mentor mode and delivers just the speech needed to do the job. The wedding is on like Donkey Kong.

From this wedding forward surprise twists and turns shift Up in the Air away from weddings days and romance into everyday reality, sending Ryan’s proverbial plane into a tailspin. Even as Bingham hits the bullseye on many of his life goals, he finds himself preoccupied and barely participating. He made a real connection with both of the two women in his life, Natalie and Alex, to the point that they turned his plane around and his worldview shifted thanks to them. But does that mean Ryan will ever really land that plane land and become a changed man?

This is a smart and funny movie but it’s also refreshingly unexpected in many ways. Although Clooney is the star, Farmiga and Kendrick hold their own with distinct and unique characters at different ends of the spectrum. The three characters are equally significant to the story because they have such a powerful impact on each other. Ultimately, it’s a movie about making connections, whether at the airport, in the boardroom, or in the bedroom.

–Katherine Recap


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