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'Up in the Air'

December 10, 2009

The great surprise of "Up in the Air," the new film from director Jason Reitman starring George Clooney as a traveling corporate hatchet man, is that it manages to humanize both sides of those who sit at the terrible table where layoffs are doled out. It would have been easy for the director to let the newly unemployed (who were, for the most part, truly newly unemployed workers recruited for the film) drift into melodrama; he didn't. It would have been easier still to vilify, at least a little, Clooney's bad-news bear; he doesn't. Instead, Reitman gives us the perfect movie for our times, with a near-perfect Clooney the cherry on top. The film is telling, poignant, sensitive, funny, heartwarming and heartbreaking, and despite the dire economic news -- on the screen and in real life -- "Up in the Air" turns out to be the quintessential upper. No drugs required.

-- Betsy Sharkey

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