The movie explores with the cliché concept of figuring out who you are and what are you doing with your life. I know, asking those questions has been pondered in movies a million times, and usually those movies take a melodramatic turn for the worse. The characters have these deep, intrinsic conversations that no real human beings would actually have. Then, there’s always a break through; the character figures out the meaning of their life, and that he or she needs to change! They look inside themselves and figure out they CAN change for the better for whatever reason (usually for a person of the opposite sex). And they live happily ever after. The End.
Thankfully, Up in the Air does not take the cliché format. The movie ponders the questions of life through the eyes of Ryan. Ryan, who seems to have his life figured out. He travels the country for most of the year firing people for different companies going under. His life never slows down, and everything he values fits perfectly in his rolling suitcase. He’s a man of habit, knows the ins and outs of how to make it through the airport with efficiency, even to what kind of suitcase to have, and what type of people to get behind in the security line (apparently Asians are the best). He makes no apologies for who he is or what he believes. His philosophy for traveling parallels his philosophy for life: travel light. We follow him as he trains the newbie, Anna, to his industry. Along the way he meets his match, professional and (seemingly) emotionally. Her name is Alex. Another woman who, like Ryan, seems to have her life figured out.
Reitman creates this world where anyone seeing this movie can relate: 20 somethings at the beginning of careers, recently laid-off workers (who have always wanted to tell off their boss*), men and women at the height of their careers, men and women at the end of their careers. I honestly never thought a movie could make me feel a rollercoaster of emotions and still be honest at the same time, but Reitman pulls it off. Up in the Air is funny and sad; it makes you laugh and cry. It has you pulling for the characters, then hating them, then loving them again. Even though most people don’t spend their lives on an airplane, everyone has had the feeling of being surrounded by people but feeling totally alone. The characters go through the motions of their life, living out of their carryon suitcase and seem perfectly content. They’re successful and employed. Why wouldn’t one be happy? The movie subtly asks this question throughout and doesn’t really give us an answer either way. It’s the character’s choice if they’re happy in their current lifestyle or not. Just like it’s our choice. Maybe we are happy with our lifestyle; maybe we’re not.
I loved, loved this movie (way more than Javi), and, all in all, Up in the Air is one of the most honest and poignant movies I’ve seen this year. Even though the movie doesn’t have the happily ever after-warm-super fuzzy-feeling at the end, it leaves you with a sense of hope and optimism that is rare to find in present day Hollywood.
*All the workers that get “let go” in this film, other than the famous faces, are actual workers who have been recently laid off due to downsizing. They were given the opportunity to speak their mind to the camera as if they were talking to their boss.