I was stunned when the film won Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes and even if I *still* thought that “Inglourious Basterds” has a better screenplay, I’d say the win wasn’t without merit. At the very least, I didn’t held any grudges against its victory. After all, with merely a self-taught education, I still need someone to teach me on Screenplay 101.
“Up In the Air” follows a man, a layoff officer, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). His nature of works required him to travel from city to city most of the time. Three hundred and twenty two days in a year. Between his job, which is to deliver the bad, and depressing news of termination, he speaks at conferences, promoting his choice of life style, best summed up as “avoiding commitments”-life style. During the course of the film, we follow him as he made acquaintances with fellow frequent-flier, a siren by the name of Alex (Vera Farmiga) and an apprentice, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). As you would’ve expected, these two relationships questioned and threatened the life Ryan has chosen.
I have often complained about the lack of strong, prominent female characters in screen nowadays. Most of the time I saw them only in passing, subjected to whatever the film wants her to be (mostly with sexual intention) which annoys me to no end. This film however, is one of the few that I remembered recently that features not one, but two strong female characters. I’d go as far as saying that this film’s main strength lies in its two female characters and I’m absolutely loving it when one of them is one screen and yearning for them to return when they’re absent.
Vera Farmiga is a stunner. She slides into her role as a siren with comfort. Sexy, but ever classy, and never cheap. Her sexual chemistry with Clooney’s character is for lack of better word, is fun to watch. Anna Kendrick is surprisingly solid as Natalie. Naive, full of dreams, and yet, we saw her dreams crumbles and she delivers the agony with confidence. Their tight-scripted dialogue is one of the best scene in the film, if not the best itself. Now, I’m not saying that George Clooney is terrible. Far from it. He naturally leads the film and his charisma, intelligence, and wit made it easy to sympathize with him almost all the way. In short, he just doing what he did best. Being Clooney. It is a reminder that Clooney is still one of those few actors whose every film is worth to be seen.
The way the film goes, it sometimes invite the viewers to assume that it is one of those romcom films, I mean, the ingredients were there. But, the film clearly doesn’t want to go there, and although the invitation was looming threateningly, it never actually arrives. Jason Reitman’s deft direction made sure of it. Teasing, but never falls into that territory I’ve come to dreaded in the recent years. The way the film ended, though it may not the ending you want it to be, was, in my opinion, perfect.
My rating: ***1/2 / **** Doubtless. One of the best 2009 film that I’ve seen. Strong female characters, deft handling in pace and direction, although I could go better with less music but hey, it Reitman’s and enjoyable scripts. Best Screenplay? I’d still go with “Inglourious Basterds.” Fortunately, they will compete in different category (Adapted against Original) at the next Academy Awards.