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Movie Review: Up in the Air*

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Up in the Air is a comedy-drama directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking and Juno.) It is an adaptation of the 2001 novel of the same name, written by Walter Kirn. According to Reitman, “The movie is about the examination of a philosophy -- what if you decided to live hub to hub, with nothing, with nobody?” Well, what if the “you” was George Clooney? In that case, you would be dressed as dapper as could be, wantonly leaving women in your wake as you fly on to your next destination.

Clooney’s character in the movie, Ryan Bingham, is a man that is hired to fire. He fires people in person so that cowardly company execs don‘t have to. Nervous laughter ensues as we see various people getting fired (including Zach Galifianakis in an unfortunately brief performance.). Further we see how Bingham must then comfort those fired with absurd informational packets that will "help" them through the process.

Bingham’s free-wheeling life up in the air is threatened with grounding when a new hire at his company comes up with a savvy plan. At Integrated Strategic Management -- run by a hilariously dead-pan Jason Bateman -- naïve college graduate Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is entering the corporate world with a lot to prove. She holds her own against Clooney as she introduces a new plan that would fire people over a live internet connection. Never one to back down, Bingham challenges Keener to accompany him on a firing to see what the implications are really like in person.

On that journey, Bingham finally finds his match in Alex Goran (played by the magnificent Vera Farmiga.) The two characters meet in a hotel bar one night and are soon seeing slapping their frequent flyer cards down one upon the other in a funny twist on who has the biggest…..amount of rewards? Goran plays an over-sexed woman who naturally appeals to Bingham’s lifestyle. One of her telling lines to Bingham is, “Just think of me as you...with a vagina.” There’s just one problem though -- Bingham begins to have some feelings for this mysterious lady and his life starts to hit turbulence of its own as he starts to learn that she is not what she seems.

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In supporting roles we find Melanie Lynskey as Julie, Bingham’s estranged younger sister and her down-and-out groom to be, Jim Miller (Danny McBride.) In a funny homage to Amelie, the couple sends card board cut-outs of themselves so that others can photograph them in exciting locations. We find that, to Bingham, one of those ”exciting” locales is in front of the St. Louis airport. Such wry examples of observational comedy can be found throughout the film.

Reitman wrote the part of Bingham specifically with Clooney in mind and this is exactly how the film feels. The movie is yet another Clooney vehicle that wants us to root for the guy that has everything but the fifth element…love. There are many themes to be explored in the film, especially the psychological impact of un-employment, the cowardice of technology and the prospect of growing old alone. Ultimately, however, it becomes a character drama that just might have made a good book.

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*(editor's note -- sometimes you have to go a long way to see a movie. Below, you can find a charming review of the Savannah Film Festival where "Up in the Air" recently screened. As if you needed another reason to visit this grand old dame of the South.)

The 2009 Savannah Film Festival began on a warm Halloween night amid much fanfare. The 12th annual festival, hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design, ran for eight days and delivered plenty of excitement for the southern Georgia city. The festival received a record-breaking 525 submissions from 37 states and 27 countries. Among those in attendance for the opening night screening of The Messenger, were two of the film stars, Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster. Both actors received awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema.

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The next day audiences were treated to a screening of The Young Victoria. The movie chronicled Queen Victoria in her first years of reign and counts among its producers Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York. The third day ended with a screening of Dare, starring Emmy Rossum. The actress received the Young Hollywood Award and felt, "extremely honored." The following day, Hugh Dancy was in attendance to screen Adam, a romantic comedy about a socially awkward man with Asperger's syndrome. Dancy admitted in the Q&A following the screening, that he had to Google what 'Asperger's' even was, which kept him, "busy for hours." Dancy later received the Spotlight Award.

By the fifth day, audiences packed a full theater to see Whatever Works. The film, directed by Woody Allen, stars Larry David, Patricia Clarkson and Evan Rachel Wood. Even though the movie had already been released on DVD, movie-goers were excited to sit amongst filmmakers and anxiously awaited the Q&A following the screening with Clarkson. The actress was a big hit as she regaled those lucky enough to be in attendance with tales of her experience working with the famed director. "Allen is not a man of many words. His highest praise is, 'That was good,'" said Clarkson. The Emmy-winning actress later received an award for Outstanding Achievement In Cinema.

On the sixth day excitement was in the air for a surprise screening that according to press material would be, "a highly anticipated film due to be released this fall." Lines formed around the block of the main theater and all those waiting could merely speculate on what the film could be. Not until all were seated and the credits began did the audience learn it would be, Up in the Air, starring George Clooney and directed by Jason Reitman. The movie-goers all clapped upon seeing the name in the opening credits and settled in for what was a very, enjoyable surprise.

The seventh day featured a sell-out screening of An Education and the final day packed it in with The Hurt Locker, The White Ribbon, Youth In Revolt and ended with Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. The festival also featured many promising entries from local SCAD students and those from across the nation. There were also a variety of workshops and panels for those interested in insider information regarding the entertainment industry. In all, the festival was fun, engaging and impressively hosted by SCAD. Not bad for an old city by the coast. After all, Robert Redford is currently filming his movie, The Conspirator, right down the road.

Article by Jennifer Harmon