I have an elderly aunt, never married, who once told me that if the choice was between staying single or being in an unhappy marriage, her preference was to live alone. This choice is one of the themes of Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, in which George Clooney’s character sees not just marriage, but all relationships, as so much unnecessary baggage.
About two-thirds into the film, I had the sinking feeling that director Reitman was going to take this idea into stale romantic-comedy turf. After knocking some sense into Clooney’s bachelor, it seemed the story would ensure a white picket fence and lots of little Clooneys in his future. But Reitman and cowriter Sheldon Turner had other, brighter ideas, and this is one reason why I think Up in the Air was robbed of a Best Screenplay Oscar.
Precious, which took home the screenplay award, was not a writer’s picture. Its signature moments involve great acting, particularly from the explosive Mo’Nique. Up in the Air, to the contrary, is a writer’s baby — from the repartee between Clooney and his female costars to the unexpected directions we are taken in the final act.
Does the film side with my elderly aunt’s philosophy on marriage? That’s a question the makers of Up in the Air leave, well, up in the air. Grade: B+
Director: Jason Reitman Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons Release: 2009
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