Monday, January 04, 2010
A lot of the time you take something out of a movie that you bring into the experience beforehand. So, over recent days I caught up on my 2009 movies and one continuing theme kept coming up from everything I watched- follow your passion. It's not a groundbreaking idea, in fact it's an idea that you can come across easily in everything from a movie or a commercial for sneakers. Marketers and storytellers alike all tug on this emotional string to get their audience emotionally invested in their product or material. And for me, as I've been deeply immersed in finding a career change recently, this theme is the foremost thought on my mind.
UP IN THE AIR follows the story of a man, George Clooney, who travels the country constantly firing people on behalf of companies too unsure of how to do their own dirty work. If there is an "art" to laying off people, Clooney's character has mastered its nuances. His life, however, is an empty bag- he has no connections, no community, no true "home." And he is completely content with his life until he begins reconsidering the assumptions he's made about the human condition as a result of becoming romantically involved with a fellow frequent flier (Vera Farmiga) and also mentoring a new associate (Anna Kendrick) on the wonderful world of giving people the boot.
This was a movie I didn't expect to like much- it falls into a category of films I deem "Oscar bait." And director Jason Reitman's last film, JUNO, is a movie I particularly dislike. But UP IN THE AIR surprised me in a good way. It has a natural sense of humor, it avoids movie clichés and it covers a lot of subjects that most movies tend to avoid for being too "real" or depressing.
The fact of the matter is that 1 in 10 Americans have lost their jobs in the past year. In addition, large, so-called "stable" companies have been a significant source of layoffs. In a decade that began with national insecurity over terrorism, it ended with another sense of fear that no person is safe in his or her job. Reitman uses non-actors in several scenes depicting people who have been laid off in real life. Their inclusion in the film drives the point home to me- a lot of people take jobs not because they want them but because they feel they need them. And when that job is taken away, that individual is left realizing that he or she has made an emotional investment where none should have existed in the first place. It's like being dumped by a bad partner.
UP IN THE AIR isn't a cynical film, a lot of what I discuss above are my own reactions to the material. If anything, this movie tries to sort through the mess of our times to discover that human decency is alive and well, if only in small portions. The acting and script are all extremely good. If I were to make a top ten movies of 2009 list, I'd put this one towards the top. It's a story that authentically reflects an important aspect of our time. It may also make you question your career and your chosen path towards happiness- depending on what you bring to the experience, of course.