Ryan Bingham flies around the county firing people for a living. Most people would loathe such a career. But Ryan, played by the effortlessly graceful George Clooney, thrives on it. "Up In The Air" is the latest Jason Reitman film. It's about relationships, human isolation in the modern era and job loss, made all the more poignant by real life interviews with people who have lost their jobs. The film has received Golden Globe nominations and is expected to receive Oscar nominations as well.
Ryan is at the top of the world, literally. He spends more time in planes and airport hotels than at home in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the perfect traveler: organized, lightly packed, efficient. The airlines treat him like royalty. And for a good reason. Ryan has accumulated almost 10 million miles as a frequent flier.
Ryan brags to Natalie, his coworker that more people have walked on the moon than the few select, who have reached such a high number of miles.
"You get lifetime executive status," he says. "You get to meet the chief pilot, and they put your name on the side of a plane. "
Ryan goes through life untouched by others. He lives most of the time in mid-air. He likes it that way. No "excess baggage."
"Your relationships," he says "are the heaviest components in your life. Your husband, your wife, your home. We weigh ourselves down till we can't even move. Make no mistake. Moving is living."
Being detached helps him at work. He fires people for a living. He sees himself more as a career change counselor than a hatchet man. He prides himself on softening the blow on the newly-fired.
But Ryan's perspective changes when he meets Alex. She's the female version of him.
Ryan's new romantic side throws him off balance. And then he gets grounded. His company decides to fire people over the Internet from its headquarters instead of sending corporate officers, like him, to deliver the news in person.
Filmmaker Jason Reitman says for the first time Ryan gravitates towards people. He calls out to Alex. When she says "Call me when you get lonely" he readlily replies "I'm lonely."
Reitman says "there really isn't anyone better than George Clooney. I wrote it [the script] with him in mind. I wrote it for his voice. I wrote it for his attitude."
Jason Reitman, known for his award winning film "Juno," delivers yet another complex comedic drama. It deals with modern technology, relationships, job loss, fear of commitment and, ultimately, the need to connect with others.
Vera Fermiga plays Alex.
"She to me embodies everything that is so hard about being a woman these days. Wanting it all," she says. "Those torn and complex choices between career and family and having romance and being respectable."
Reitman's characters are witty, flawed, realistic, disarming. The dialogues are intelligent. The cast is stellar. The story is multilayered.
Tough economic times and getting fired are one of the movie's subplots.
Nevertheless, the filmmaker retains his quirky sense of humor
"Everywhere I look I see comedy," says Reitman. "Often where it's inappropriate."
"Up In The Air," leaves us, yes, up in the air: unsettled, confused about what to expect, what is expected of us, and how life will ultimately turn out.