Up In The Air director-writer Jason Reitman “is the first to acknowledge the frequent changes of tone in the film,” writes Chris Willman in a recent Huffington Post-ing. “He says he thinks of the first act as being like Thank You for Smoking‘s corporate satire, the second act as like Juno‘s more intimate comedy, and the third act as something much more personal for him.
“At various points the movie feels very Cameron Crowe-esque, with its exec-finding-his-soul overtones harking back to Jerry Maguire or Elizabethtown. At other times it feels like it’s leading in the direction of being a romantic comedy, but what it offers in the end is something far less conventional than that. It’s not actually a ‘feel-good’ movie, finally, though Telluride attendees left feeling awfully good about it.
“‘I’m trying to take the audience in a certain direction so that when the ending happens, you really feel the impact of it,’ Reitman said — and to be any less cryptic than that would be offering spoilers.
“The main character definitely involves Clooney playing to suave, commitment-phobe type, up to a point. ‘I feel that this is a movie very much in his voice,’ Reitman said. ‘And I thought — I presumed, and I found myself to be correct — that this movie, this storyline and its characters, really speak to him, and that you can feel that in the authenticity and vulnerability of his performance.’
“If people see parallels between Clooney’s intelligent playboy image and the movie’s alternately glib and soulful terminator, so does Reitman. ‘It’s interesting, the connections between him and this character…I think [Clooney] saw this as a chance to stare that straight in the eye.’
“The director says the film is ‘truly about connecting with other human beings…for the first time ever, [the Clooney character] realizes he’s alone in the universe, and I wanted to leave you with that feeling.’ But he sees that as upbeat, mind you: ‘When you realize how alone this character is, you want to reach out and love other people.’
The initial Up In The Air focus “will surely be on the incredible timing of the unemployment angle,” says Willman. “Most of the ‘actors’ Clooney lays off in the film — who respond by swearing, threatening suicide, weeping, or with real resignation — are people who really were recently fired. The filmmakers placed an ad, saying they were making a documentary about job loss. They narrowed the field down to 100, filmed 60 people, and 25 of those made it into the movie as firees.
“The closing end-credits song is also written and sung by a regular guy in his mid-50s who handed Reitman a cassette of a sad tune he’d written about his own job loss and the subsequent search for purpose.
“Jason Reitman — Hollywood’s one-man stimulus plan.”