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Up in the Air

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman’s new film got a bunch of well-deserved Golden Globe nominations, but it is also a little depressing.


I am an old-fashioned girl. Although not sentimental, I do perhaps have a latent romantic streak. After all, I like movies with happy endings. I like good triumphing over evil, I like guy gets girl (or vice versa), I like applauding happy family situations.

I left Up in the Air, in a state of depression.

Which is why I left the latest George Clooney movie, Up in the Air, in a state of depression. That’s not to say it wasn’t an excellent movie and undeserving of its 6 Golden Globe nominations. It was. It was thoughtful and thought-provoking -- and one of those rare birds, a movie for grown-ups.

I spoke to a young successful professional man in his twenties about the movie. “What did you think?”

“A little long, a little boring,” was his initial response. We didn’t discuss the plot detail. There was no point. It was clear to me that he couldn’t relate.

How could he possibly understand the trauma of job loss to middle-aged men and women? He couldn’t empathize with their practical fears about feeding their families, health care (this is NOT a political plug) or losing their home. He couldn’t relate to their sense of emotional loss, to the idea that the company they worked for and its employees could operate as a second family. He couldn’t understand how our sense of self-esteem is connected to our work productivity and accomplishment.

But my husband and I could. We could easily empathize with their pain. And even though we all know that ultimately our real self is our soul, our inner core, and not our career choice, it is hard to escape the societal and emotional pressure that says otherwise. Depressing point #1.

Although we didn’t discuss it, I am guessing he found the failed romantic relationships in the movie humorous. I’m guessing he didn’t see the pain and confusion beneath the surface. He is too young to imagine a road not taken and to see the consequences so clearly. The determinative power of the choices we make was highlighted in bold relief and woe to those who don’t choose wisely or wait until it’s too late.

Although it’s never too late for the most significant choice of all -- a relationship with the Almighty -- we can make other self-destructive decisions in our lives that limit our future options -- in all ways. Depressing point #2.

And along the same lines, our hero (still good-looking after all these years!) has established a philosophy of life that has trapped him in loneliness. He has developed a motivational presentation based on shedding all loving relationships and traveling with as light a load as possible. Although the movie illuminates the emptiness and pain of this perspective, it doesn’t solve it. It is not so easily reframed. Depressing point #3.

It was an interesting, sophisticated movie. I did not, like my young friend, find it slow. But entertaining? No.

For the same money, I’d rather just smile and see The Princess and The Frog one more time!

January 2, 2010

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Andy Wolf, April 13, 2011 4:33 PM

Hard Hitting

I really enjoyed the movie. As someone who in his younger years and teens spent most of his time traveling all over the world with no clear sense of "home", then going into the Airborne Infantry, doing combat time, then coming home to be medically retired (honorably fired), this movie left me realizing just how very little I carry in my Backpack.. and That depressed me. I don't know my family, I don't own much of anything, and I've never really had a home. Now, with a career gone, the market very uneasy, and my family scattered all over the map, it can be a very lonely and (frankly) daunting world. However, the upside to all this is very clear- I'm only 24. I have time, plenty of it. However, I think it should be noted -particularly in Bingham's case- that time sneaks up on you. All this being said, I really enjoyed the film, and I appreciate the wake-up call. PS. As a former sniper, I got a laugh out of zach galifianakis's rooftop shooter scenario.

(7) stei7141, January 18, 2010 6:18 PM

What Kind of Woman . . . ?

The MOST depressing point, not mentioned by the author, is the movie's portrayal of "Alex" (Vera Farmiga), the strong, emotionally mature woman who is also sensitive and fun to be with. So what's not to like? Well, "Alex's" morals are, um, in the toilet. She beds George Clooney when they first meet. And she continues her illicit affair with him, despite having a husband and children back home. No conflict, no guilt, no confusion, no regrets. The movie actually celebrates her clarity of purpose -- unlike Clooney's character, "Alex" knows exactly what she wants. Good for her, right? This is what passes for virtue in Hollywood -- doing something that you know is wrong, over and over again, but doing it well and enjoying it to the hilt.

(6) bea garoon, January 7, 2010 4:48 AM

A waste of good actors on a so-so story. Advertised as a comedy? No way is there anything humorous here. If anything, it's a downer.

(5) Anonymous, January 6, 2010 10:36 PM

I was depressed by the film also

It was a sad subject at a time likethis in our bad economy. I also did not appreciate the affair that was over in a flash. How women now become more like men only wanting a one-night stand. Also training right out of college (Clooney's assistant), it was not clear what her major was, obviously psychology didn't teach her much about real people and feelings.

(4) Joyce Sand, January 5, 2010 5:17 PM

George Clooney is Eye Candy But ....

The movie was thought provoking and looking at George Clooney is always a pleasure. But if you want a funny adult movie, see "It's Complicated." Everyone in the theater (50 ) was laughing.

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