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Up in the Air


Stars: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, Sam Elliott, J K Simmons, Amy Morton, Zack Galifianakis

Director: Jason Reitman

At least this cutting, bitter-sweet, if somewhat overrated and over-hyped comedy-drama has a leading character we've never encountered before. And Clooney at his best gives a performance that for once justifies the overworked PR adjective multi-layered. He plays a high-powered high-flier who spends half his life in the air, jetting from place to place: his job is to fire people, while letting them down easy, his employees having loaned him out to bosses who haven't the courage to sack their own inadequate or superfluous employees.

Clooney's cosy life of hotel rooms, occasional dalliances and highly professional lectures is threatened by ambitious young Natalie (Kendrick) who has had the bright idea of firing people by computer screen. Clooney's assigned to a state-to-state trip to show her how it can be done with efficiency and compassion. At the same time, he's due home for the marriage of his sister (Lynskey) and strikes up a liaison with similarly here-today-gone-tomorrow Alex (Farmiga), who agrees to be his 'date' for the wedding weekend.

Farmiga, a naturally warm actress, more than matches Clooney for emotional appeal, and you want them to stay together at the end.

The simultaneously empty and attractive aspects of Clooney's life are nicely underlined here. For all that, though, it doesn't quite sweep you along with its narrative as the best crowd-pleasing comedy-dramas do, only partially involving you with its characters.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 09 Jan 2010