Thursday, March 25, 2010
Up in the Air
Finally, after three months of waiting (for the film to play in theatres and then for me to have time), I have finally seen Reitman's newest. You want to hear something ironic? I accidentally watched the ending of the film on my way to Sydney around a week ago, on Qantas. So literally, Up in the Air up in the air, for me.
On (Double) Meaning
I loved the interplay between (global) enterprise symbols (Hilton, American Airlines, Hertz) and the contrasting effects of the lay offs (mind you, Reitman had real (laid off) people speaking in the film). How some giants remain giants while the faceless workers are dehumanised, and survivors become the elite. It was very cynical and I couldn't help but feel a hint of socialism in the film. Maybe he was aiming for humanism but when you reveal the ugly face of capitalism it's kind of inevitable.
There was a scene where Bingham's (Clooney) future brother in law had cold feet before getting married. The huge step was suffocating. Marriage, children, soccer games, graduation, their weddings, grandchildren, death. What's the point.
But all I could think of was that this structure was also exemplified in Bingham's frequent flyer miles, loyal customer programmes and dozens of membership cards. It's just a different kind of structure.
And so Bingham was left without words upon his 10 millionth mile. A thing he thought he wanted very badly. A goal he had headed towards as an intentional release from the more conventional social structures of marriage and settling down. And yet he too, had cold feet.
I loved the questioning of the taken-for-granted reality. You think you want something very badly until you get it, then you question the whole purpose and value. This is the problem with linearity, be it confirming to the social norm or defying it.
On the Fixed and the Fluid
Bingham's older sister (Morton) asked him to take a cut out cardboard photograph of his younger sister (Lynskey) and her future husband on his travel, so that they had honeymoon pictures without traveling - as they're left without honeymoon funds to pay for property investments.
There is the contradiction between fixity and fluidity.
For his sister, fixity was her relationship. The spaces are fluid. They could be anywhere, nowhere, a lie or true traveling - and what mattered was their relationship.
For Ryan Bingham, the spaces are fixed. The only certain thing in his life is his mobility, with all his relationship baggage (pun intended) stripped off to the bare essentials. For him, people are fluid, they come and go.
It got me to thinking about choice. How what matters to us is highly dependent on what we need 'fixed'. For some it's family, for others its personal development. I don't think either is the wiser, as long as the decision was made consequently. I know I'm straying off focus here, but I just can't help it.
On Personal Reflection
I couldn't help but feel pangs of familiarity with the security checks and checking in and boarding and packing light and dragging my small suitcase everywhere.
I did more traveling in the past five years compared to the first 22 years of my life.
And I couldn't help but feel validated, that for me, traveling is only exciting as long as I have a home to go to. The people, the physical space, the notion of home. And I also couldn't help wondering that once it loses its novelty, every place, no matter how exotic or grand or inspiring - once we've adjusted - will lose all its attractiveness.
Usually it's then when I would love to go home. I am no Ryan Bingham.
I have always loved Jason Reitman's work. I loved Thank You for Smoking and I loved Juno. But hands down, Up in the Air is his best so far. It deserved all the praise and critical acclamation it received.
I think he is the best (new) director in the past decade, coming from our generation. He covers capitalism, ethical and moral debates, sub culture, social marginalisation; all coming from a son of a successful capitalistic director. The difference in ideology between his father and he is staggering.
What I really love? He isn't judgemental and self-righteous. He says it like it is, lays it out for the audience and I pretty much leave the theatre reflecting on life and meaning. No absolute right or wrong. Just reality and construction.
Which is how it's supposed to be, with film.
And to communicate all this with an aesthetic mise-en-scene and a great choice of cast (Clooney and Kendrick in particular), I applaud. I truly hope to see more to come from Mr. Jason Reitman.