N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich has written a rousing paean to Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air in the Sunday edition. For those who haven’t decided to vote for the George Clooney topliner as a Best Picture nominee or winner, Rich’s piece will close the deal. Certainly among Academy members who read the Times over Sunday brunch.
Up in the Air “is not a political movie,” he writes. “It won’t be mistaken for either a Michael Moore or Ayn Rand polemic on capitalism. What makes it tick is the struggle of Clooney’s character, Ryan Bingham, to reclaim his own humanity, a story that will not be described or spoiled here. But the film’s backdrop is just as primal — and these days perhaps more universal — than the personal drama so movingly atomized by Clooney in the foreground.
“Here is an America whose battered inhabitants realize that the economic deck is stacked against them, gamed by distant, powerful figures they can’t see or know. Up in the Air may be a glossy production sprinkled with laughter and sex, but it captures the distinctive topography of our Great Recession as vividly as a far more dour Hollywood product of 70 years ago, The Grapes of Wrath, did the vastly different landscape of the Great Depression.
“While Up in the Air opens with a remix of Woody Guthrie‘s Depression-spawned “This Land Is Your Land,” its dispossessed Americans don’t resemble those in a black-and-white Dorothea Lange photograph. They’re not the familiar contemporary blue-collar factory workers in our devastated manufacturing economy. They are instead mostly middle-class refugees from the suburban good life depicted in credit card ads.
“Their correlative to the Dust Bowl is a coast-to-coast wasteland of foreclosed office spaces where desk chairs and knots of dead phones lie abandoned in a fluorescent half-light. Up in the Air taps into the desperation, fear and anger that both the populist left and right are trying to articulate right now, and that leaders of both parties have failed to address.”