Up in the Air: a brief commentary.

This isn't a review as much as a commentary on Up in the Air, which addresses the classic dichotomous ideals of the American male.

The self-sufficient, independent male is an archetype that has reigned in cinema through stars ranging from Bogart to Wayne to Eastwood, and now to George Clooney, who has previously embodied versions of that persona in numerous movies including Out of Sight and Michael Clayton. He reprises elements of those roles in role in Up in the Air*, as his Ryan Bingham can live on the road 320 days a year, eschewing his spartan one-bedroom apartment for a cavalcade of keycards. There's an allure to this lifestyle. Isolation would be an easy and enjoyable choice, void of much of the world's pain and suffering.

*This familiarity doesn't mean that his performance isn't noteworthy. I would argue that it makes his turn all the more impressive, as he uses subtle facial expressions to brilliantly express emotions in ways beyond the capacity of mere words.

Isolation might be easier, and such a persona may be ideal in theory. But that doesn't mean it's better, and like Communism, it doesn't usually work in practice. Up in the Air explores this, as Bingham churns through the inevitable sequence of attitude-adjusting events. He eventually realizes that to some extent, everyone needs someone. If even the callous scribes of Hollywood admit this, musn't it be true?

Like the countless movies with this formula, Up in the Air doesn't necessarily have a life-altering happy ending, but the film also features introspective realizations that life is more than just oneself.
Maybe that's the ultimate lesson. The lasseiz-faire attitude is an idealistic veneer, one that can even be functional for a while and might be necessary at times. But in the end, a man needs more than himself. He needs others. He needs God.

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