My friend Eric tweeted late last night,” ‘Up in the Air’: politely misguided liberal fantasy, or egregiously clueless and downright offensive in parts Piece Of Shit?”
It made me think of the clip above. I watched Up in the Air earlier this week and wondered what the fuss was about. It tries to do a lot, but I’m not sure it accomplishes very much. It’s boilerplate romance-gone-wrong fare, freighted with a message about how our priorities are wrong and somehow the horrible economy will help us figure out what’s important. Sorry, Mr. Reitman, but the notion of making lemonade doesn’t work when you can’t afford the lemons in the first place.
For people who’ve never been laid off, it seems like the stuff dreams are made of. You’re freed from a job you probably hated anyway; you get some severance, or at least unemployment; and you can reevaluate things and move on. Which is the logic that informs this amazingly hilarious Onion article I read way back in October 2003, when I was about six months into what would be a 2+ year underemployment bid.
I felt that the testimonials that came at the end of the movie from folks who’d lost their jobs in the recent downturn echoed the hope the Obama campaign gave them. Their optimism and their reliance on family to support them in their time of need were both very poignant, but Reitman conveniently leaves out all the stories from the past few years about folks who’ve lost their jobs and have then gone on to violent attacks on their workplaces and communities.
Is Reitman the new W.D. Howells, that is, someone who puts a smiley face on realism? There’s but one “dead end” in the movie, the woman who follows through on her threat to commit suicide. Everyone else just goes on their merry way, for better or worse. Whether it’s finding a new job, or having an affair, or just running away from it all thanks to a nearly infinite supply of frequent flier miles, everyone can find an escape from the humdrum, if not outright happiness.
I think it’s that that people dislike about Reitman’s movies. The simple-mindedness. The breezy dialogue. The beautiful people. The whole ‘resiliency of the human spirit’ trope, which sometimes just seems a little more realistic than the way it’s presented here. Reitman’s youthful, privileged worldview makes it difficult to see things differently than he does, that is, through a lens of infinite possibility. The problem is that Reitman’s skies, like those in Up in the Air, are sunny and cloudless.