Up In The Air - Poem by gershon hepner
Up in the air while waiting for limbo,
living on tenterhooks, flying
from time like a pilotless, airheaded bimbo,
we act as if we are not dying
miles high in the stratosphere, dark clouds below us,
speeding incognito in
crowded cabins while thinking that no one can know us,
aware that we never will win
an upgrade to first-class, because we are heading
to hell in a jet-propelled plane,
with no chance for romance that ends a wedding,
to nowhere that we can explain.
Inspired by “Up in the Air, ” with George Clooney, who plays a character whose profession is to fire people and put them into limbo, and Vera Farmiga, with whom he has a sexual relationship while flying from city to city, regarding the air above the clouds as his home. Manohla Dargis writes in the NYT, December 4,2009:
For most people there’s no joy in sucking down recycled oxygen while hurtling above the clouds. The free drinks and freshly baked cookies in business might be nice. (I wouldn’t know.) For most of us, though, air travel largely invokes the indignities of the stockyard, complete with the crowding and pushing, the endlessly long lines, hovering handlers, carefully timed feedings, a faint communal reek and underlying whiff of peril. The skies rarely seem friendly anymore, but to Ryan Bingham, the corporate assassin. And so he is. Like many high-altitude border crossers who sometimes seem alone in keeping the airlines aloft, those business types with the corrugated brows, juggling BlackBerrys and double-shot lattes, Bingham lives in between here and there, home and away. The difference is, he loves interstitial living, finds comfort and more in all the spaces associated with airports and airplanes or in what Walter Kirn, in his novel that inspired the film, calls Airworld. “To know me is to fly with me, ” Bingham says in the film, like an airborne Descartes. It’s as if as a child he had heard — and heeded — the call of the female attendants for National Airlines who, in the gilded flying age, used to purr, “Fly Me.” Back when flying meant soaring…
Ms. Farmiga enters the picture, legs and intelligence flashing, just around the time you think that nothing much is going to happen with Bingham. (A crash? a terrorist strike?) As Alex, a fast-moving businesswoman, Ms. Farmiga bats around the double-entendres effortlessly and brings out real warmth and palpable vulnerability in her co-star. To watch them together — particularly during their later scenes, when they visit Bingham’s hometown — is to realize just how much alone time Mr. Clooney clocks in his movies. It says something about the dearth of strong female stars in American cinema that he hasn’t been this well matched with a woman since Jennifer Lopez in the 1998 caper film “Out of Sight.” (In the years since, Brad Pitt has been playing Rosalind Russell to Mr. Clooney’s Cary Grant in the “Ocean’s” movies.) ..
Mr. Reitman successfully exploits the seeming disconnect between his star (whom we can’t help but like) and the character he plays (whom we want to like, simply because he’s played by Mr. Clooney) , so much so that it takes some time for you to notice the approaching darkness. Mr. Reitman certainly hints at the trouble to come: however bright Mr. Clooney’s smile, there is something terribly off about Bingham’s blithe attitude both toward his own existential reality and his profession. Instructively, it is how Mr. Reitman circles around the character, showing how Bingham’s actions affect not just him, but also those around him — including the people he fires — that deepen the movie if not its peripatetic center. There are different ways into “Up in the Air, ” which can be viewed as a well-timed snapshot of an economically flailing America, appreciated as a study in terminal narcissism or dismissed as a sentimental testament to traditional coupling. A wedding subplot, for one, involving Bingham’s sisters (Melanie Lynskey and Amy Morton) , which brings him closer to Alex, threatens to swamp the story in sentimentality. Yet to put too much stock in this detour (which also involves Danny McBride) is to flatten a film bristling with contradictions. Certainly you can fall for Bingham, maybe even shed a tear for him, though don’t get carried away (as he does) or mistake him for some kind of hero. The truer tragedy here, as the repeated images of fired men and women suggest, doesn’t belong to him.
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