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Up in the Air

I saw this movie with my family over break. It's the one where George Clooney flies around the country firing people, with scenes based on actual interviews with people who lost their jobs to corporate downsizing. Clooney's character is a simple (not stupid - he's smart - but not complicated) man who likes the perks that come with his job - the hotel stays, the frequent flyer miles, the exclusive gold club membership cards. He can pack a perfect bag in ten minutes and has a special key card that clues hotel concierge to always greet him the same way (“Welcome back, Mr. _________” / “Pleasure to see you again, Mr. _______”).

At a hotel bar in one of many Hiltons, he meets a woman (played by Mia Farmigiana, sorry I can't remember character names when I know actor names) who is like him "but with a vagina" (her words); in the next scene his boss makes him take along a new recruit to the company, Natalie. The three of them play house (with Mia and Clooney playing Mother and Father) when they crash a convention at the hotel they are staying at after Natalie's boyfriend breaks her heart.

Relevant links (via R): Don't move 3000 miles to be with your boyfriend! and Text Message Breakup

The rest of this post is spoilers.


The movie is out to teach George Clooney, who is perfectly happy with his Hertz-club-card lifestyle, that he doesn’t know what he’s missing by not pairing up in a long-term monogamous equal partnership. But not in a movie way: in the way life often seems to be out to teach happy loners like George Clooney this exact same lesson. Being in a serious relationship clouds your mind, you no longer always act out of perfect enlightened self-interest, you find yourself thinking in or expressing emotional clichés. Sometimes you find yourself staying at hotels where you don’t have a gold membership club card. But it’s very, very important in emotionally trying times, the interviews at the end of the movie suggest.

In other words, Clooney’s lifestyle is fine for Clooney because he has no emotional needs that can't be filled up by status symbols and pleasure at efficiency. XD; If he was in trouble, if he needed the support of another person, he’d be lonely. When he’s seen how nice it can be to have someone else with you – when he is convinced by Natalie to fall for Mia Farmigiana – then he can’t go through with his regular anti-commitment speaking engagement (called "the Backpack" - your life should fit in one backpack); he might be shallow, but what you see is what you get.

George Clooney becomes fond of Natalie, and writes her a letter of recommendation after she and the company part ways -- full of marketing-speak that doesn't mean anything, like his "Anyone who's ever built an empire sat where you're sitting right now" speech, but let's put that side for the moment. He likes her because she had her own ideas and stood up to his, while at the same time not dismissing him or his dream, of accumulating 10,000,000 frequent flyer miles (“everyone needs a hobby”). More to the point, Natalie was the first person to share Clooney’s REAL life, in the airports and the hotel rooms. There may have been other smart nice genuine young women, but Clooney’s boss didn’t make him take any of THEM on the road with him. Like in every James Bonds movie before Casino Royale, those women never had a chance with George Clooney because he was never emotionally available to them.

Mia Farmigniana is the other first person to share George Clooney’s life, but their arrangement turns out to be good to be true. ^^; She’s non-committal not because she embraces a travel-light philosophy like he does, but because she’s already committed elsewhere... Actually I suspected as much in the scene where she and Natalie are talking about their perfect guys, and Mia’s Perfect Guy is one who “wants kids” and “is physically able to play with his kids” – you know right there that she’s not talking about Clooney.

(“I’m a grown-up,” Mia Farmigiana says. Grown-ups have affairs? Or grown-ups don’t look for emotional support in semi-strangers? But that’s not true, witness all the people who have lost their jobs and break down in front of Clooney, a perfect stranger...)

(So in other words, Natalie is wrong about everything. XD But in a less cynical atmosphere, perhaps her instincts will be right.)



Truth in Television: This is another movie about how guys never think they want to get married, but once they get a taste of domesticity, they kind of like it, isn't it. Except not quite.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
petronia
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
It's Vera Fami-whatev, iirc. XD;

Not gonna lie, I was kinda PO'd because I was rooting for them. Like here is a mode of romcom interaction I can actually relate to (scary as that presumably is XD;), even though it was obvious it wasn't going to be that easy, because a) you find out nothing about her and b) if she is so easy-breezy relaxed about falling into a relationship, why isn't she in one already? - and of course because I can relate to it, clearly it's not meant to be. Though what really irritated me is that in RL it wouldn't have happened that way, because she would have sent much more obvious signals, and Clooney's character would've been able to read them. Like oh say, NOT GIVING HIM HER HOME ADDRESS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Or not attending a family wedding as his date, because hullo obv msg - except I can't say that because that's exactly the sort of unadvised stunt I tend to pull, and have. Twice. XD;;
petronia
Dec. 31st, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
Oh, and I thought what the movie really excelled at was portraying the joys of corporate life; like what if you don't find it soul-destroying by definition, what if you actually enjoyed business travel and the cheesy stuff that happens when everyone starts drinking at conferences. Cos I do, and a lot of ppl obviously do to some extent, but it's almost never admitted or described in Art (presumably because Artists are less likely than average to derive such enjoyment).

Edited at 2009-12-31 05:51 am (UTC)
sub_divided
Dec. 31st, 2009 06:23 am (UTC)
Mia Fami-whatever, of course. XD

In real life, she didn't give Clooney her home address, he looked it up on yellowpages.com. Of course she had to give him her real name, since they swapped gold cards. My brother and I talked it over and decided that this must have been how it happened.

But going with him to the family wedding was a huge mixed signal that should never have happened - especially since she didn't do it just for the lulz, she acted like she really enjoyed breaking into his old high school and hearing stories about him as a teenager. Maybe it's because she wasn't taking it seriously that she was able to do that, but...

George Clooney's "only bring a backpack" speaking engagement persona must really have made an impression, if it never even crossed her mind that he could think of their thing that way.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 3rd, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
psst
actual full text message break up link is here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb0s1AePP2g); the one up there is cut off =)
sub_divided
Jan. 4th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Re: psst
Thank you!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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