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George Clooney and Vera Farmiga star in Jason Reitman's 2009 film "Up in the Air".
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Losing a job can leave someone as grief strickened as the loss of a loved one. Everything you’ve worked for can be taken instantly when a company seemingly decides to “go another way” with your livelihood. Job loss anxiety was a day-to-day reality when millions of American jobs were being cut by the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is letting newcomer Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) inform an employee that they are being “let go” because of “downsizing.” Natalie and Ryan profit in a business that fires employees in mass in a post-Recession climate all over the United States. Natalie got on in the company from creating a local platform to fire employees from webcam, attempting to cancel out Ryan’s lifestyle of flying around the country and firing employees before catching another flight. A repetitive loop of turning a profit and living a life being the worst bearer of bad news.

Natalie knows the right type of responses that a telemarketer or a call-center employee would know to give to someone where there’s a communication device between them. Those prove vastly inadequate now that she has to sit in front of a man as he asks her what will he tell his kids about getting fired. Her preloaded dialogue lines of encouragement result in the man firmly telling her to go fuck herself.

A lack of proper communication and connection drains a person of their authenticity. Natalie telling that man all those forced lines isn’t her trying to connect with him, it’s simply to do a job. Ryan is portrayed as a middle-aged nihilistic asshole that enjoys stockpiling frequent flyer miles and pointless hotel upgrades, but he’s authentic. He’s authentically an asshole, but the point still stands.

Clooney is naturally suave as per usual and really delivers once the story starts demanding more from him than just being a smug type in a business suit. Intercontinentally living his life with no plans of finding someone to settle down with. Or at least seriously settle down with. From locking eyes at a hotel bar to comparing hotel and flight exclusivity programs, Ryan and fellow work traveler Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) spark up a casual “I’m in your city” type relationship.

Natalie’s new local method of firing doesn’t mold well with Ryan, who also lives off the ability to never nest in a city for longer than a few days at a time. But he also sees Natalie’s electronic method not being authentic as it won’t teach an employee how to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a disgruntled and freshly unemployed employee. Their boss Craig Gregory (Jason “Please put me in more serious roles” Bateman) pins them together to have Natalie learn Ryan’s expertise, but Ryan sees it as to show her why her method will fail.

Natalie and Alex are the two women that teach him more about himself than he knows or cares to acknowledge. Ryan has a lifestyle and career that allows him to answer to no one and feel empowered by firing thousands of people. It’s hard to assume if he’s career driven because he has nothing else to work for. It’s also wrong to think just because Ryan doesn’t have a family waiting for him at home that he’s not living right — the stance that Natalie tries to tell him to work towards because it’s all she’s ever heard.

Writer-director Jason Reitman has an eye to make mainstream appealing movies without adhering to typical structural beats you’d expect in more orthodox movies. He already proved this with other excellent films such as Juno and Young Adult, but Up In The Air exemplifies all of his previously confirmed qualities with unexpectedly dark turns it decides to successfully go for.

An interference of communication complicates the lives of those featured. Everyone is miserably happy with their standings in life. Being career driven is shown to be carefree if you can live with yourself. Ryan set up his life to never be in one place for too long for fear of having any type of personal connection. It’s not a film that has supporting characters teach a differently behaved character how to be more traditional, they actually are there to prove his point that he will always be different. Up In The Air is a fantastic portrayal of the importance of physical human connection and how it separates us from turning bitter and careless.

Up In The Air is now currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

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About the Author

Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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