Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pose Reviews A Movie. #6: Up In The Air (2009)

As a self-proclaimed technophobe, I can't tell you how happy this movie made me.

It's really nice to see a film that not only isn't shown in IMAX 3-D, but also has a powerful message about the poisonous effect that modern technology can have on interpersonal relationships.

The premise of Jason Reitman's third feature centres around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man whose compulsive craving for efficiency, coupled with his smooth-talking demeanor, make him undebatably adept at his chosen profession. Which, incidentally, is breaking the harsh news to complete strangers that they've been fired.

It's a fascinating look at what must be an extremely difficult job. Not only is Bingham entrusted with the task of perpetually ruining people's lives (or, at best, ruining their days), his work as a consultant also requires him to travel constantly across the United States. By plane. Yes, yes, hence the title, Up In The Air.

BUT, enter a tech-savvy young whippersnapper by the name of Anna Kendrick (played by the appropriately named Natalie Keener) who decides to turn Bingham's world upside-down...by keeping him on it.

Kendrick's plan is to have the "fire-ers" do their dirty work via video conference--a move that completely removes the already shaky human element from their work. And this is what I found to be the most fascinating aspect of the movie.

Sure, there's a lot of facets to Up In The Air. The film puts a human face on corporate downsizing and the current economic downturn, it spends some time developing Bingham's love of detachment and solitude, and of course, he manages to meet a girl.

But that's all just "movie stuff."

My favourite part of Up In The Air is its explicit warning about the impending demise of person-to-person communication, and the importance of its survival.

Could you imagine getting a pink slip from Max Headroom? Or being dumped via text message? Or "attending" the funeral of a loved one by watching it on YouTube?

It's scary, but at the rate that technology is swallowing our perceptions and interactions, these kinds of phenomena might not be that far off. It's just nice to know that one of Canada's leading filmmakers seems to be as concerned about them as I am.

Anyway, the underlying theme of technophobia is just icing on this particular cinematic cake; the take-home doggy bag from a delightful movie-going experience. Overall, it's a well-written, well-shot film about connection and disconnection, which couldn't be more relevant in the fast-paced climate of our North-American lives.

And hey, you might even enjoy it without reading SO far into it!

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