People who know me for any serious period of time know that I spend a fairly large part of my time in search of a job. My biggest dream is to work full time in the creative industry. An industry that almost by default lends itself to unstable bouts of employment. The fact that my own life seems to have a high turnover of employment, I like to think, prepares me for what I live in hope will be my ultimate career. Living with that reality means that I have a certain amount of experience leaving companies as well as joining them. So when I sat down and watched the movie “Up in the Air”, I couldn’t help but enjoy seeing things from the other side of the proverbial table when it comes to letting people go.
Thankfully, I have never worked for a company that has the money or resources to employ what might only be described as a termination specialist to do the job of letting me go, but I can’t imagine its much of a picnic for anyone involved. I know it’s never been much for me. However much like the main characters in the film itself, Ryan Bingham and Natalie Keener (played by George Clooney and Anna Kendrick respectively), I find that I have developed a certain amount of emotional distance from the jobs that I get and the way in which I deal with them, which makes dealing with the loss of the job all the easier to leave if and more often than not when necessary. To paraphrase from Fight Club that I have somewhat embraced:
“I am not my job. I am not my possessions or my position in society.”
In as much as that is true of me, this is true of the characters of “Up in the Air”. Even though their jobs are their lives, the characters themselves are not their jobs. They are both defined by, and yet set themselves apart from their jobs. It’s an interesting contradiction that plays itself out in the film. A lot of their lives revolve around the work that they do, and yet they still find time to go to parties, meet people, and find time to relax in between the work that they do. I suppose it’s ironic that a film about the end of people’s employment doesn’t depict the job the main characters do for a living as soul crushing. That Ryan Bingham (Clooney) actually likes the work that he does, hard as it may be, and Natalie Keener (Kendrick) spends much of the film trying to move past the more difficult parts of a job in which she is constantly confronted with the absolute worst moments of many people’s lives.
Also worthy of note is that my bias against any actor participating in the films of Twilight has been fundamentally shifted by Anna Kendrick in this film. While I still generally question anyone’s willingness to play a part in a film series that is so incredibly terrible on so many levels, watching Kendrick perform in movies like this and 50/50 have helped me to separate the material from the actor and appreciate the people involved all the more. She plays the character of Natalie with subtly and emotional depth that I don’t really see in Twilight when I have watched it.
Clooney of course, is, well, Clooney. Even as a man with a face so recognizable, he manages to embody the character of Ryan Bingham beautifully who believes in a life without connection while developing a need to connect with people.
So how many people are left “Up in the Air” by this film? I’m guessing not many.