Up in the Air

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      Starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga. Rated PG.

      The ability to roll with the punches, absorb information quickly, and travel in some kind of style are now requisites to modern living. Most folks still see actual legwork as an unfortunate cost to doing business on planet Earth, but a special few prefer to stay in motion. This movie is about one of them.

      Watch the trailer for Up in the Air.

      George Clooney has found a perfectly tailored fit in Ryan Bingham, who fires people for a living. This downsizing specialist buzzes all over the U.S., employing his Clooney-esque charm to gently blunt the axes falling at newly acquired companies. He’s in it for the air miles and those little bottles, plus upgrades and special promotions. And his world is threatened by the appropriately named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has come up with one-size-sacks-all software designed to turn termination into another form of telemarketing.

      Ryan manages to talk his glib boss (Jason Bateman) into letting him fly Natalie through a quick show of the golden ropes. Remarkably, writer-director Jason Reitman does not embark on a quirky romantic comedy. Bingham’s beef with Keener remains a professional matter, while his private realm is gradually shaken by mid-air encounters with a playful fellow traveller (Vera Farmiga, in her best screen turn yet) who warns him: “I’m just like you, only with a vagina.” Does he listen?

      Working from the tight script he wrote with Sheldon Turner, from Walter Kirn’s novel, Reitman is as alive to the manifold ambiguities of these situations as he was in the lighter-toned Juno and Thank You For Smoking. This wildly entertaining movie wobbles in the middle, at an unengaging family reunion, but that diversion ultimately turns out to ensure that Up in the Air’s darker notions stay aloft to the end.