I like going on planes.
It has its hassles, sure, with all the security and getting
sat next to some alpha male who thinks the measure of a man's
worth is in how much of the armrest he can claim for himself.
Airports suck, and the booze is way overpriced in the lounges
because they know you can't buy enough travel-sized cough syrup
in the gift shop to get loaded. The chairs in the airport aren't
La-Z Boys, either, which they should be. And every seat should
come with a butler and have a toilet built in. That's just common
Still, I like going
on planes. For one thing, it still feels pretty fucking swank.
In the old days, flying was a big deal left to martini-swilling
playboys, international spies and ladies spray painted gold.
Now, there are tons of flights and they hardly cost more than
a keg of domestic beer. That's still more expensive than the
bus, though. I hear snooty assholes bitching all the time about
the low-class of air passengers these days. Those complainers
have probably never ridden the Peter Pan overnight from Denver
to El Paso. They have no point of comparison. To me, a sweaty
fat guy in short-shorts whose nose whistles when he breathes
looks like the God damn King of Luxembourg compared to sitting
next to a hairy, greasy, lady smeared with her own shit. Hell,
most everyone who flies is way classier and prettier smelling
I also like planes
for the same reason that George Clooney in Up in the Air
likes them: you are untethered, free from all the anchors of
a daily, pointless existence. You may be on your way to another
pointless existence, but at least it's a new one and its pointlessness
has yet to be revealed. If you're traveling, you are not weighed
down by the people and obligations you've committed to. Plus,
you can order porn in your hotel room, eat shitty, greasy food
and not feel guilty. When you're sitting in one of those uncomfortable
plane seats, you can tune out everyone around you, listen to
music on your headphones, look at lousy products in crappy catalogs
and crank the seat way back into the kneecaps of the guy behind
you. Your space is yours.
I like flying a few
times a year. Clooney likes flying all the time. In Up in
the Air has been home a total of 43 days in the last year.
He has a job where he goes to failing companies with gutless
bosses and tells the employees they're canned. He also makes
motivational speeches about how nice it is not to have any emotional
ties. I don't know how those work, exactly, but he seems to
find darkened conference rooms every now and then where a couple
dozen saps are sitting and waiting for him to tell them how
to live. What the fuck? Can't they get Dr. Laura on the AM?
He aspires to write a book about his philosophy of isolation
and he hopes to keep traveling so that he never grows roots.
The company he works
for, however, has other plans. They are going to use the Internet
to fire people and keep people like Clooney locked away in cubicles
in Omaha, Nebraska. The idea is the child of Anna Kendrick,
a young hot shot with an elm tree up her ass who has no idea
of how devastating it is to get fired. As a side note, I do.
I have a lot of experience with getting fired and it's awful.
The only way to make it palatable is to start crying and see
if they'll give you a bunch of free shit, like gas cards and
coupon books. I once got a box of free highlighters and it made
me feel better for three weeks. Anyway, Clooney is paired with
Kendrick for a road trip so she can better see what it's like
to fire someone and how best to simulate it via the Internet.
On the road, Clooney
has a girl he fucks, Vera Farmiga. She's also a frequent traveler
who likes the untethered road life almost as much as him. They
coordinate their schedules for screw dates and text message
each other about when and how to jerk off. You know that Clooney's
starting to take it too seriously when he invites Farmiga to
his sister's wedding in Wisconsin.
Up in the Air
wants to make the point that no man can remain isolated. It's
too damn lonely. It wants Clooney to be miserable without an
anchor or a place called home. As the story moves along, I realized
the story expects that we feel the same way and it does little
to convince us that someone can be happy without family and
friends. Instead, screenwriters Jason Reitman (also the director)
and Sheldon Turner (from a novel by Walter Kirn) put Clooney
through the paces. At first he loves being single and footloose.
Then he decides he really likes Farmiga, and he lets Kendrick,
in all her uptight nervousness, convince him there is something
to not being alone. By the time the movie gets to Clooney advising
his future brother-in-law that marriage is a good thing, it's
dipping its toes in schmaltz. Later, when Clooney abandons the
stage in the middle of the most important motivational speech
of his life, it's swimming in the shit.
As with all pulpit
ditches, Clooney does it for love. He rushes to Chicago to see
Farmiga, only to discover his fuck-buddy has a complete home
life with a loving husband and kids. For her, the road was an
escape from real life, and not real life itself. I don't have
a problem with that message, but I don't see where Up in
the Air earns the conclusion that nobody can be happy forever
on the road.
Clooney has spent
years perfecting his lifestyle and shedding relationships. He
barely knows his sisters, as he says and they must repeat. I
figure that in all that time, in all those motivational seminars
and in the book he wants to write, he has considered his life
before. I'm not saying I don't think it's incredibly shallow
to want nothing more than elite frequent flier status out of
life. I'm just saying that most people have even lesser goals.
And many have no goal in life. For a couple minor incidents
to change him feels more expeditious than sincere.
The movie looks fantastic,
breezy and sharp, winging about. It always has a sense of place
and sharply defines its locales. It reminded me in ways of the
Talking Heads song Big Country (but not the Big Country
song Big Country). The first half of the movie is quite
good and hits rare false notes. Particularly, Kendrick's character
feels a bit obvious. But Farmiga takes off her clothes and looks
fantastic that way. Her character is vague and elusive, yet
self-confident like we rarely get in movie women. That is, until
her real life is revealed. To me, that was the most obvious
way it could go down. Clooney is Clooney. He mostly goes through
the movie working on his Cary Grant impression. I guess it's
good, just that by the second half of the movie he's not asked
to provide any genuine emotion, just sort of transform from
self-confident to this sort of, "Uh, gee, now I'm not so sure,"
character that will be satisfying to everyone who agrees with
the movie's hypothesis.
Personally, I ain't
so sure. I bet Clooney could have been happy forever on the
road. And those of us who haven't tried it probably shouldn't
e so god damn sure we know better. Three Fingers for
Up in the Air.
to tell Filthy Something?