Jason Reitman has his way with us throughout this rolling comedy, this comedy with more than a bit of powerful drama.
From the opening shots, which wonderfully create a sense of flying, to the closing music, which has a personal touch, this film simply and cleanly tells the story of life.
George Clooney continues to shine on screen, almost without trying.Even when reducing his smile, and straining to present a sober mein, he commands attention and authority.His Ryan Bingham is a serial loner, a man out of place in private company, in serious relationships, absent a supporting cast.Perhaps the appeal of this character was not lost on Clooney, who reportedly shares a similar philosophy, though it is better to have a house in the Dolomites than a one bedroom in Omaha, as Bingham maintains.
Through some changes to the corporate downsizing company for which he works, firing people from other companies, Bingham is compelled to train a bright newbie, Anna Kendrick’s Natalie Keener.Fresh from her Ivy League education, Natalie is rich with ideas, long on talent and moxie, and short on understanding people.
Linked by their boss, Jason Bateman in a relatively straight role for him, Bingham and Kendrick travel together, learn from another, and see the merits and challenges that technology plays when it becomes part of the firing process.
But this is hardly the full story here.
The film is really about how we live, and how we choose to live.It’s about whether dreams are worth dreaming, or whether they’re just goals.It’s about whether happiness can truly be found, or whether it’s elusive, or just for the other person.It’s about emotions, and how they can tease us, and hold us, and even control us, at times. And it's about how we both treat and consider others, even communicate with them, and them to us. And it is all presented in a spartan style with ample wisdom and wit.
Bingham’s dream is to obtain a significant number of frequent flier miles on American Airlines.The number is so implausible that it will be left to be considered as Hollywood fiction.He wants the miles just to attain them.Not to use them, but to have them.And there’s a great irony here, as Bingham sidelights as a public speaker, lecturing convention attendees on how to separate themselves from their possessions, their families, anything to which they have an attachment.
And to that backpack that Bingham keeps referring to, to the backpack that weighs down all who attempt to lift and carry it, Bingham adds a woman who perfectly compliments him.Vera Farmiga as Alex Goran is just great.There are scenes, short scenes, shot from a distance, that literally look as though Farmiga is being herself, not even acting.Her performance as a character who seems to mirror Clooney’s is eerie, and there’s even reference to it at one point, where she tells Clooney, by phone, that she’s basically him, but with a vagina.
But it’s that backpack the Clooney seeks to unpack that serves as more than a simple metaphor.You can’t live without some things.Without some stuff.Without some possessions.Without some attachments.And therein lies both the twist in the arc of this film, and way in which we see each character get what they want, even if they didn’t start out wanting what they got.
This is a powerful film presented and told in a light and revealing way.It has a strong script, solid performances, wonderful direction and presentation, and even with a story and theme that is challenging within our economic climate, it resonates.