Up in the Air

Remember when they used to say how sad it was that George Clooney just couldn't seem to make the transition from TV's "ER" to the big screen? No matter how hard he tried, he just wasn't cut out to be a movie star. Well, who has the last laugh now?

This delightful and unpredictable film works on many levels. George Clooney ("Burn After Reading" and the "Ocean's" franchise) is a corporate downsizing expert. He flies from city to city as a hired gun who works for a company which specializes in dismissing employees for employers who don't want to do it themselves. The company he works for is headed by Jason Bateman ("Juno" and "Extract") who sees today's terrible economy as a gold mine for his sort of business and they have refined their routine to a science based on phony compassion. Clooney's character only spends forty days or so a year in his one-bedroom Omaha apartment, the rest of the time he's in the air, in airports, in airport hotels, or in the process of firing people.

Some of the best segments of this film are the taped interviews with people as they confront the shock of unemployment. We recognize some of the faces, but they look and act like the real deal. Special credit should be given to screenwriters Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking") and Sheldon Turner ("The Longest Yard" 2005), as they have incor- porated the angst of a contemporary issue with a "ships-that-pass-in-the-night" romance, and even work in a winter wedding. I read later that Reitman actually used recently fired people for some of these interviews.

The aforementioned romance is...are you ready for this?...age appropriate! Vera Farmiga ("The Departed") is the free spirit who charms Clooney in various layovers (sorry...) around the country. Anna Kendrick ("New Moon") is the ink's-still-wet freshly minted college graduate who brings an academic vision of how to streamline their company. When accused of being romantically interested in Clooney's character, she scoffs, "He's OLD!" You'll love the look on Clooney's face when he overhears THAT! Be ready for generous bits of humor and clever dialog.

I guess if I came away with any lesson, it would be that old one: "Be careful what you wish for."