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Wick's Review

Created Dec 17, 2009 09:37PM PST • Edited Oct 17, 2021 09:33AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    Behold the Great American Movie starring American idol George Clooney flying on American Airlines. This All American trifecta makes Up in the Air an instant American classic. And a damn funny one at that: good thing, since we Americans love to laugh, especially when nursing a really f-ing bad economic flu.

    Breezy, bracing, clever and surprising, Up in the Air earns many of its many laughs as a brilliant sex comedy, while finding significant emotional resonance by peering into not one psychological abyss but two: a man constantly flying away from human connection and white collar workers getting summarily disconnected from their livelihoods. Of course the two are linked. That’s what makes it great.

    A word about this Perfect rating: I rarely award a Summary that’s exceeds both the Acting and Film ratings. Up in the Air is the rare movie where the whole is greater than the quality of the parts. So though neither the Acting or Film is perfect, the movie as a whole is.

  3. Great 4.0

    In a role that echoes his carefree off-screen life, George Clooney achieves moviestar perfection as an apparently heartless playboy who induces laughter with most every line and reaction shot. A contemporary Cary Grant, he’s devastatingly suave and funny. In terms of bragging rights, Clooney’s turn here is nearly the comedic gem as was his boy Brad’s in Inglorious Basterds, yet has serious overtones that Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine never approached. Call it a draw.

    Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are terrific as Clooney’s female companions, one a like-minded hedonist, the other a driven traditionalist. Farmiga beguiles with her soft beauty and sharp sense of self, notwithstanding that she’s not a classic screen siren. Kendrick delivers a more wide ranging performance, from funny to sad. This is an actress with a bright future.

    Several terrific actors pop up in small roles and cameos. The first two were also in J-Reitman’s Juno.

    • Jason Bateman as a smug asshole corporate executive.
    • J.K. Simmons as a fired employee who shows rare depth of character.
    • Sam Elliott as a legendary American Airlines pilot.
    • Danny McBride as a doofus brother-in-law. McBride is money when it comes to funny movies.
    • Zach Galifianakis – also money in the funnies – as a fired employee who melts down memorably.

    Apparently the other 22 fired employees are real people who have been recently let go from real jobs. Judging by their performances here, they might want to consider taking up acting as a second career.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Good 3.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    The Great American Novel “perfectly represents the spirit of life in the United States at the time of its writing” opines Wikipedia. UITA achieves that standard at the dolorous end of the beginning of the 21st Century. Brilliantly conceived and constructed, Jason Reitman’s film deftly addresses the insular culture of airborne road warriors, post-feminist sexual relations and – not least – the many tragedies of downsizing.

    J. Reitman proves here that his directorial triumph with Juno was no accident, and that he’s also a screenwriter of great talent. Who knew.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    The film declares its jaunty tone right from the opening credits, employing a comicbook-like panel structure that simultaneously elevates and contains the film’s themes. Think Mondrian for the silver screen.

    As in Juno, Reitman uses title cards to great effect. Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, they all look the same to the modern road warrior if you don’t read the signs, or the title cards as here.

  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    The story cleverly juxtaposes the career and personal dislocation felt by Clooney’s hatchet-man even as he continues to dispense lifestyle death blows to hapless employees.

    The script misses perfection by striking tinny notes in a couple of areas: a character is revealed to be phony in a way that seems unlikely in real life, and the largely fictional nature of Clooney’s high end corporate executioner job. (See CiroReality below.)

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0
  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.8

    Great Sex: suggested, not shown.

  15. Sex Erotic 2.6
  16. Violence Gentle 1.2
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.7
  18. Glib 1.5

    A movie about lies is full of them, starting with the long distance widebodies Clooney flies on his Midwestern hops. What?!! Sure, widebody first class is damn nice, but you don’t get those planes puddle-jumping from Texas to Missouri.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 2.0

    More subtly, Clooney’s right wing hitman is one more Nietzschean √úbermensch as imagined by the Left. Call him Brooks Brothers man: a perfectly boring suit encasing someone selfishly self-interested. Maybe, but if guys like him – at his bill rate – were really circling overhead, we’d of all been outta jobs by this time last year.

    IOW, the depiction of business is at the outer limit of glib, just this side of surreal.

  20. Biological Glib 1.5

    Clooney and his girlfriend avail themselves of every cookie provided at check-in and every free cocktail offered to high status corporate travelers. Yet their characters look like what the actors playing them are – super trim movie stars.


    The Executive Platinum reality: After upgrading to First for a cross country flight, get offered champagne before take off, warm nuts once aloft, unlimited drinks for the duration of the six hour flight, a steak dinner & ice cream sundae, not to mention the freshly baked cookie before landing. Land. Check in at the Doubletree, where they push a huge chocolate chip cookie across the counter at you.

    Anyone accepting all those free calories ends up looking more George Wendt1 than George Clooney.

    1 Norm from “Cheers”

  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Dec 25, 2009 8:04AM

Regarding Wick’s Review
Will it sweep? I doubt it. Still, it should be a legitimate Best Picture candidate.

Dec 24, 2009 5:04PM

Regarding Wick’s Review
Excellent review, Wick.

I’ve heard so many good things its hard to keep track! Do you believe this is the movie that’ll sweep the Oscars? Perhaps its good enough to nab itself a best picture statue?