"Up in the Air" will definitely end up on my "Best Films of 2009" list, however I thought for sure it would be my favorite film of the year. First here are reasons why I liked the film -
1. The ending - I won't spoil the ending for anyone, but I will say that it is not your typical "Hollywood" ending. The great part for me is that as the film was reaching the end I thought to myself "wouldn't it be great if the film ended with...." but thought for sure that it would never happen, but guess what! It did. That rarely happens to me.
2. George Clooney playing himself - Clooney is perhaps best known for being an eternal bachelor claiming he will never marry (again), he charms his audience with his smiling eyes and his seductive smile - it is obvious that he is our generations Carey Grant. The role of Ryan Bingham (an eternal bachelor/businessman who spends more time traveling than he does at home) seems to be written for George. It is amazing to watch on screen because the character eventually realizes the flaws in his theory of self-isolation, which allows us to see his vulnerability - and who doesn't want to see an A-list actor have insecurities and self-doubt? However, should Clooney get an Oscar for it? My answer is no.
3. The many themes - This film takes on a lot, without really forcing any one idea on its audience. I really enjoyed the part when Anna Kendrick talks about what her dream guy is and all of the goals that she should have already accomplished (at the young age of 23). Clooney and Farmiga sit opposite her watching with sympathy. I found myself in the middle this generational gap - angry that I should be at a different stage in my life, but finally realizing that life just happens...you can't plan anything (life is in in the "journey" not the "destination" kind of thinking). This scene is just written so realistically well - i watched in awe. I also liked Clooney's motivational speaking topic - "the empty back-pack". In theory this idea of having no baggage seems inspirational - so much so that he actually convinces himself that he is happy with his life. That is until reality kicks in and he realizes that having "stuff" in his life like love and a family are actually a fulfilling and essential part of living.
4. Reitmans players - I love when directors stay loyal to certain actors. This film had Jason Bateman, J.K Simmons - even Sam Elliott
5. Vera Farmiga - Amazing. She portrays this confidence and sultriness that makes it perfectly believable that someone like George Clooney would fall for her.
Now here are the reasons that it is not my favorite film of the year-
1. It wasn't as funny as it should have been - It was amusing through its entirety, however both Juno and Thank You for Smoking are hilarious and satirical - both features that Up in the Air lacked. Where is that biting sarcasm that Jason Reitman is so good at?
2. Anna Kendrick - I think she did a good job in this film, however it is not a nomination worthy performance. The audience isn't necessarily supposed to like her character, which is obvious by her tight-lipped, overly tense body language and cold demeanor - but Kendrick did a great job at breaking the character down and showing emotion (without actually showing emotion). I just wasn't "wowed" like I expected to be. It doesn't help that her performance has been hyped up so much, it set the bar really high for such a newcomer.
3. 500 Days of Summer was better - There were a few films like Up in the Air that were released this year that did the whole "non-love" love story theme, but I think the best one was Summer. It was far more entertaining and whimsical, it was funny and heart-breaking and most of all it was inspiring.