Up in the Air

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in <em>Up in the Air</em>

The highly entertaining George Clooney and Vera Farmiga are in very fine form as occasional jet-set lovers, but this comedy-drama about a businessman whose job involves traveling around the country from corporate office to corporate office and handing people their pink slips — plus a pep talk about the positive aspects of unemployment — quickly devolves from slick recession satire into glumly moralizing parable. In the film’s first half, Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a smug free spirit, finding degrees of happiness in his first-class seating privileges and accumulated airline mileage even as he disassociates himself emotionally from the reality of the lives he’s disrupting. He even gives motivational speeches about the dangers of accumulating material goods and personal relationships, advocating a highly mobile, narrow-footprint existence. And thus the film’s second half contrives to teach him a lesson about the importance of companionship, the significance of family and grown roots, and the general emptiness of his frequent-flier pursuits.

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