Up In The Air is every baby-boomer’s wet-dream. It’s narrative crack for the sentimental, story loving middle classes. A nasty, chemical concoction of conceits.
Ingredient 1 – Implausibly good-looking ageing actors (Clooney & Farmiga).Designed to pull in star-struck boomer romantics. Two good looking executives have raunchy sex in hotel rooms and discuss joining the mile-high club (the scene where they compare airmiles’ cards and discuss sex on planes is just plain, bad writing). The film’s one saving grace is Clooney’s lack of redemption.
Ingredient 2 – Sentimental (but patronising) view of marriage among poor people. The wedding scenes are so clichéd, cloying and inauthentic that it’s an insult to the people bearing the brunt of job losses, largely caused by assholes talking down to them. The groom is a cartoon character with unreal dialogue and played as a buffoon; the bride as a bubbling child. The older sister character is much more interesting but she’s subsumed under this pathetic sub-plot.
Ingredient 3 – Young person introduces then turns her back on technology. Baby Boomers just love this. Bright young thing just doesn’t get it (technology bad – face-to-face good) – then she does. It’s us Baby Boomers teaching them young ‘uns a lesson. And what’s the lesson? When it comes to sacking people, do it face-to-face, with a smile. Wow.
Ingredient 4 – Use real people to get emotional response then ignore issue. This is criminal. Real people are used for the interview scenes and finale, and their plight is in no way helped by appearing in a sentimental rom-com, where they’re mere fodder for a feel-good plot. The fact that they’re real people, being exploited again, makes me want to tear the Director’s throat out.
Ingredient 4 – Barely disguised advert for Hilton and American Airlines. Does the Director have no sense of irony? Having paid for huge dollops of crude product placement, one could reflect on the fact that both organisations have been sacking staff like crazy. Take the 7000 jobs from American Airlines and the 1000 and more from Hilton. There’s something creepy about naked capitalism when it’s worming its way into your consciousness through indirect advertising in a movie that decries the very behaviour you exhibit.
In the end this is a thinly disguised rom-com for cosy people who have jobs and don’t care much for those who don’t. By avoiding the main issue, job losses and redundancy, it redirects the audience towards an anti-technology message. This is bullshit. The 'sack people using videoconferencing' idea is fantasy, job losses and the pain of redundancy is not. If Clooney gets an Oscar for this, it will rival Obama’s Nobel Prize as most misplaced award of the century.