Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #16

Re: Up in the Air (2009)

I keep waiting to hear your take on Up in the Air. My brother and I saw it. We argued afterward. He thought it was nearly pitch perfect and I thought it left a great deal to be desired. [Spoiler warning.]

I thought the surprise of Vera’s marriage was pure fabrication and emotional manipulation. The screenplay had it right at the beginning when Vera states that she is the opposite of Ryan Bingham except for the plumbing (I’ll spare the more vulgar statement of the movie). This is what the movie is about — or should be. It is a movie that is exploring the age-old adage first found in Genesis that “It is not good for man to be alone.” It would seem that Ryan and Alex both need to move beyond the shallowness of their lives to find each other. The sudden introduction of her being married seems to me an arty contrivance merely to shock the audience.

I am not against the character being married — they both are already immoral — but there should be some hint — say cell phone calls that she keeps getting but refuses to reveal, which eventually we find out are from her husband or children; however there is nothing in her character to suggest that she is married.

It is meant to be ironic that Ryan is the one trying to convince the man intended to marry Ryan’s younger sister that he should settle down. However it is too ironic because Ryan has no means by which to convince him. He really does not believe it. In a scene where he should be coming to some interior realization about his need for Alex — which kind of happens — he should be able to mount a much more heartfelt plea for marriage. He should be speaking to himself as much as he speaking to his possible brother-in-law. Of course we find him finally heading to Chicago for Alex, only to find out that she is married.

Not only is the relationship between Ryan and Alex ambivalent, there is not one healthy marriage in the entire movie. The movie does live up to its name — it is up in the air. In a movie that seems to be wanting to affirm the good of marriage, it remains remarkably ambivalent about the whole endeavor — which does leave the movie “Up in the Air”!

I would like to hear your take.

My take on Up in the Air is much the same as yours.

My wife Suzanne commented after watching the film that the compartmentalization of Vera’s life, where she is unconflicted free spirit away from home and unconflicted wife and mother at home, is a contrivance that the movie doesn’t sell. In reality, the two halves of Vera’s double life would be bleeding into one another, taking their toll on her; she wouldn’t be able to maintain both — or else, if the movie wants us to believe in Vera, it would have had to do something to make her psychology credible to us. It doesn’t.

I don’t necessarily mind that the movie doesn’t have one healthy marriage. I do mind that it seems to want to make some sort of profound statement, but doesn’t seem to know what it is.

In the category of sloppy screenwriting, add Ryan stumbling and stopping at the outset of his backpack speech and then walking off the podium as a hackneyed way of showing us that He’s Changed.

Link to this entry

Coming Soon

Recently Added

In Theaters – Latest

In Theaters – All