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The Auteurs Daily: Telluride and Toronto. Up in the Air


The Auteurs Daily

Up in the Air

"Cynicism and sentiment have melded magically in movies by some of the best American directors, from Preston Sturges and Billy Wilder to Alexander Payne," begins Stephen Farber in the Hollywood Reporter. "Jason Reitman mined the same territory in Thank You for Smoking and his smash hit, Juno, and it's pleasing to report that he's taken another rewarding journey down this prickly path in his eagerly awaited new film, Up in the Air. Boasting one ofGeorge Clooney's strongest performances, the film seems like a surefire awards contender, and the buzz will attract a sizable audience, even though some viewers might be startled by the uncompromising finale."

"Clooney has scarcely ever been more magnetic onscreen than he is here as Ryan Bingham, a gun-for-hire who specializes in the dirty work some corporate bosses don't like to do themselves, firing employees," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "Even though the central plot doesn't involve Alex [Vera Farmiga], her easy-come, easy-go relationship with Ryan represents the heart of the movie, simply because the rapport between the two characters - and, causally, between the actors - is so terrific. It's not the hardest thing to write a seduction dance, but Reitman and the thesps keep the sex and keen sense of play between these two birds of a feather sparking through the entire running time, as the two keep working out ways to make their complicated schedules coincide. They're simply one of the most fun couples seen onscreen in many a moon."

"Loosely based on Walter Kirn's novel, Reitman's updated movie, which he started working on six years ago, has become, with the economic downturn, far more timely," writes Anne Thompson. "It's a witty, charming and moving exploration of a world we all recognize."

Jay A Fernandez, blogging for the Hollywood Reporter, notes that Up in the Air has "the benefit of playing in the context of a country wracked by recession and imploding careers. The individual pain of downsizing is explicit throughout, and Reitman said that he had indeed used non-actors who had lost their jobs in the past year to populate most of the montages of Clooney laying workers off in Wichita, Omaha, Detroit, Milwaukee, etc."

"Kirn's novel has been transformed from an otherwise unremarkable example of corporate comedy into a piece at once deeply personal and serendipitously relevant," writes Kristopher Tapley at In Contention. "This is one of the year's finest films."

"The film does have a few issues in its third act," finds Alex Billington at FirstShowing. "It hits some rough spots as it progresses on, although they're mixed in so well with the humor and the more sentimental moments, that it's easy to look past them."

"Let's make it clear right now," writes Pete Hammond at the Envelope, the Los Angeles Times' awards blog: "Oscar nominations are likely assured for best picture, director, screenplay, actor for Clooney and supporting actress for either Anna Kendrick as the young know-it-all who threatens Clooney's job security or Vera Farmiga as a one-night stand who keeps on giving. Perhaps both will get nods. This is one of the smartest adult comedies in some time, and Paramount should see substantial box-office coin that will turn around the deadbeat results of recent grown-up vehicles like State of Play and Duplicity."

Online viewing tip. Peter Sciretta (/Film) has nabbed some immediate reactions "up in the air," that is, in a gondola from AICN's Quint (Eric Vespe) and FirstShowing's Alex Billington.

Now it's on to Toronto.

Updates, 9/8: "While differences certainly exist between [Cary] Grant and Clooney, the comparison is useful in illuminating not only the position of Clooney, but the potential future of Hollywood stardom in general," argues Anne Helen Petersen.

Online viewing tip. A taste of that Clooney/Farmiga chemistry in this first clip.

Update, 9/9: /Film has a two-minute teaser.

Update, 9/11: Kristopher Tapley (In Contention) interviews Reitman.

Updates, 9/12: "The rise of Jason Reitman is in a way emblematic of the Toronto Film Festival." Roger Ebert explains; then: "You can be 32 and already have three good films under your belt. Look at Spielberg. You need to find the financing, of course, but that's not the hard part. The hard part, as wise men have said for generations, is story, story, story. Reitman's films are not in the business of following formulas. All three have pointedly ended in ways we probably didn't expect. All three have insights deserving consideration. All three require actors who can deliver complex and fascinating dialogue. All three make us care. That with Reitman we also usually laugh a good deal is so much the better."

"Ladies and gentleman, your Best Picture winner," announces Scott Tobias. Not his personal favorite of the year, perhaps, but consider that a prediction. Also at the AV Club, Noel Murray: "[I]t's impossible to overrate how good Reitman is with actors. Vera Farmiga is sexy and wise as Clooney's frequent bedmate, while Anna Kendrick is a revelation as a Clooney protégée who resists his worldview while acknowledging its attractions. And of course Clooney strikes just the right tone - halfway between super-cool and sad-sack. Up in the Air may be as comforting and predictable as a hotel suite, but at least with Clooney, you know you'll be traveling first class."

Seth Abramovitch in Movieline: "Reitman is a feverishly talented and meticulous filmmaker; he's also an unapologetically populist one. It's a blessing and a curse: On the one hand, you'll emerge from Up in the Air feeling as if all your questions have been answered, your zeitgeist bone has been tickled, and your expectations (even your expectations of the unexpected) have been tidily met. But just ask Ryan [Clooney's character] - life doesn't always work out that way."

"Some naysayers have already dismissed the film," notes James Rocchi at Redbox. A "friend of mine, without seeing it, sniffed via Twitter that they '... can't wait for another movie where an executive discovers their soul.' But Up in the Air isn't about that; it's about how we don't seem to have a working system of work in America any more, just an ongoing game of musical chairs where we all hope to have a seat and a job when the music stops and never have the time to wonder who, exactly, is playing the tune and pulling the available seats away one by one."

"[T]his new film is a sizable artistic progression for the young director, doing away with Thank You's glib cynicism and Juno's gimmicky hipness," finds Tim Grierson in Screen.

Updates, 9/14: "Spotted with snippets of mock exit interviews with real recently laid-off Americans, Up in the Air tries hard to embody this moment of national melancholy," writes Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog, "but Reitman reveals his hand by setting the opening credits to a light blues cover of 'This Land is Your Land.' The song, and the film, are pure American schmaltz jazzed up, its inherent brightness tinted blue but never significantly darkened."

Fernando F Croce at Slant: "Be a capitalist asshole, but don't be alone. That's the message in Jason Reitman's glib crowd-pleaser."

"Is there a category for Best Motion Picture to Pound Its Theme Into Your Skull With a Ball-Peen Hammer?" asks the Chicago Reader's JR Jones.

Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay notes that he isn't the first to realize that this film's got a particular resonance with film festival attendees.

For Eric Kohn, writing at indieWIRE, this is "first and foremost an actor's movie. In addition to steady deliveries from Clooney, Farmiga and Kendrick, the movie also contains significant roles for typically comedic actors Jason Bateman and Danny McBride, each of whom display previously unforeseen range."

Update, 9/15: Online viewing tip. Anne Thompson spoke with Reitman at Telluride.

Updates, 9/19: "Up in the Air is almost unbelievably good," writes Tom Carson for GQ. "We've all gotten used to putting up with the slovenliness of even Hollywood's most entertaining comedies, from the ramshackle way they're assembled by too many cooks to the cheap use of patsies and cartoonish finks to guarantee laughs at the expense of people we don't care about. An expertly wrought, emotionally satisfying contemporary comedy that has none of those flaws is a minor miracle."

Online viewing tip. David Poland talks with Reitman.

Update, 9/22: "Perhaps the most timely movie for the left and right coasts of America at the moment, Up in the Air manages the rare balancing act of making immediate, up-to-the-minute tragedy both warm and funny," writes Kurt Halfyard at Twitch. "But there is much more on the films plate than simply laughing-to-prevent-from-crying at the current state of America; the film delves into life philosophy, behavior etiquette in the modern world and simple human dignity in ways that only a good comedy can."

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Trailer is up for the film

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