“Up in the Air”: A Personal Review

Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is a corporate hatchet man who finds himself in a different city everyday in order to fire employees and then return to his life on the road. Bingham has ignored his family for years, he has lost interest in love or marriage, he settles for a hookup here and there on the road, and he has no real address to call his home. He loves his independent life “up in the air”, and his constant flight becomes a symbol of his untethered life.

George Clooney is at his finest in his performance as Bingham, and Anna Kendrick is a surprising newcomer in her role as the new college graduate who is mentored by Clooney. She is the perfect representative of her generation, satisfied to substitute online interactions for any human interaction. She conceives of a new idea to save travel expenses and to remove Bingham from the road — fire people online. Her plan and the discussion around it are commentary on the coldness and loneliness we all come to feel in a world devoid of human touch and community that is a function of relationships and not clicks of a mouse that require little commitment or emotion.

We often make choices to run from from vulnerability, commitments and the possibilities of love. (In fact, my experience is that the whole city of Los Angeles that is so confident in its independence and lack of rootedness might want to ponder this film for a while. It has something to do with why people feel lonely there). Both characters in the film also discover their humanity again, and they want to walk away from the loneliness they have created for themselves. Bingham finds himself feeling for the employees he fires, caring for the hookup he has, and enjoying the family he has ignored. As the film ends, we are unsure of what choice he will make, whether to return to his cocoon of protection in a plane or to finally return to the place where he is loved and at home.

The film is as fine a film about the universal need for foundations, for community and for love as any I’ve seen. I found myself in the film, and it helped me to see why I am so happy being back at home in Tennessee where my address is permanent, where my family never goes away, and my friends still call after 20 years. This poignant film asserts that to settle for less is to be less than human.

One Response to ““Up in the Air”: A Personal Review”
  1. mark says:

    Up in the Air is one of the BEST movies in years. What a time for a movie like this. It speaks of commitment, lack of commitment, losing your passion and what happens when you do and sometimes what it takes to regain it. It speaks of what some of us who want satisfy a desire but miss out on fulfilling a need. We sometimes chase the rabbit when the carrot in in the palm of our hand. Great storyline! No movie this year should come close to it’s true to life messages. Hands down THE BEST!

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