Selling your soul at the Hilton bar

In which George Clooney realizes that being a single man with limitless frequent flier miles isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so  after visiting his estranged sisters in Milwaukee he attempts to convince Vera Farmiga to settle down with him, despite having enjoyed a perfectly marvelous relationship in which they get to play Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman over drinks at the Hilton bar. Oh, and Clooney plays a guy in an airport suit who jets around the country firing people.

A mendacious, offensive, souless film, Up in the Air’s motions towards authenticity include interviews with real unemployed people who have to recite Jason Reitman and co-screenwriter Sheldon Turner ‘s bullshit about Finding A Purpose. The reality is that people work for a paycheck; whether they love their jobs is ancillary. Why do you think so many women (and men, frankly) will give up a job for the sake of their children and spouses? It should tell you where their priorities are. I suppose Reitman thinks it’s a new wrinkle in the formula to cast reliable coot J.K. Simmons as a recently terminated man who’s advised by Clooney to Follow His Dreams and take up cooking again, as he once did before the evil corporate world sucked his soul. The movie doesn’t even have the courage to acknowledge that Clooney’s feeding him a line; Rowling’ s character is too old to start anywhere anyway.  Worse, the message this twaddle is hustling — that all single men realize their essential loneliness — is the male menopausal take on what old Hollywood use to warn young women against. Entrenched in the tradition of male stars who win over the audience with their cynicism only to go soft in the final reel, Clooney gives us the umpteenth version of Paul Newman’s Hud.

I wonder how much Hilton and American Airlines paid for all the advertising the film gave them.

4 thoughts on “Selling your soul at the Hilton bar

  1. Just put up my review and I liked it a good deal more than you though I think that it presents a false choice between personal and professional fulfillment (for a male character for once). I think you’re misreading the scene with JK Simmons; Clooney is covering because Anna Kendrick has gone off script and insulted Simmons’s character and the point is not that what’s he’s saying is canned corporate BS but that he’s connecting with someone in a way he doesn’t during these sessions – proof that he is being changed by his attraction to Alex. Three great leads, though Farmiga is underused and as I wrote I could imagine a movie based around the relationship between her and Kendrick’s character. I don’t think this has a thing to do with the recession.

  2. Actors transforming poorly written roles is an old trick, but Kendrick doesn’t at all: she played a kewpie doll as a kewpie doll. Then Reitman compounds the problem by using her as the vehicle through which he presents his “message.” As for the Simmons scene…your reading of the scene is definitely how Reitman wants us to interpret it, but my point (which may not have been clear) is that even with the Human Touch with which Clooney lubricates his terminations there’s no awareness of how facile the scene is written and directed. Simmons HAS no options, and for a man as smart as Clooney to believe that a sixtysomething can follow his long deferred dream of becoming a short-order cook really strains my patience. If the movie had signaled Clooney’s awareness of the brazenly cynical nature of their exchange, it would have been more effective.

  3. Saw this tonight. Going in I figured you might be overreacting a bit; you weren’t. I liked certain individual moments: the three-way talk in the aftermath of Kendrick getting dumped, at least until Farmiga’s “a nice smile” jibberjabber, is as fast-paced and funny as I was hoping the movie would be, and the last 15 minutes or so disrupted my expectations enough to allow me to leave the theater feeling some dignity for myself after crawling all over my theater seat for much of the preceding two hours. But having only seen Thank You For Smoking (and, please lord, not Juno), it’s pretty clear that Reitman is a stylish hack. I like Clooney more than you do, and thought he did very good things with material that wasn’t often very good, but Kendrick did nothing with nothing; she was better as the pouty friend in New Moon, FFS.

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