It’s already August and there haven’t been too many updates in our Film 2010 section: apparently there wasn’t enough time to go to the cinema as well as write about the films. Let’s make up for lost time by combining a couple of smaller reviews. Today two films starring George Clooney.
Like it or not, Clooney is the James Stewart or Cary Grant of our times. Well, I never spotted Stewart or Grant doing a commercial for Nespresso or that drink that gets you into parties. But other than that, he’s the hunk of our times. Which is why it’s such a great pleasure to see Clooney in dirtier movies. Clooney seems to have a thing for the Middle East. After Three Kings and Syriana he returns for Men who stare at goats. “Men” seems to be an update of Three Kings, but this time it’s not about soldiers looking for a treasure, but about a journalist looking for a remarkable story. And what can be more remarkable than the military technique of staring at goats till they have a heart attack or staring at walls so you can walk through them? It’s a great technique that comes in handy if you don’t want to open a door to murder a goat that’s at the other side of the wall.
Men who stare at goats combines wackiness with social criticism, but the pace isn’t always right and sometimes the film tries to be cleverer than it is. But it’s daft and you’ll like it for as long as it lasts. Stare all you like, but this one won’t get more than 6.5/10.
Next up, Clooney in Up in the air, the latest offering by Jason Reitman (who became a household name after Juno). More social awareness here: in these times of global recession, Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham has a lucrative job: he goes up to workplaces and tells people they’re fired if their boss doesn’t have the courage. Ryan has a verbal showdown with Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) who wants to change the profession to firing people over the internet and has a fling with Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), who seems to be as much of a loner traveller as Ryan is. Meanwhile Ryan has to drag a cardboard cutting of his sister and future brother-in-law around the US, an idea for a wedding gimmick Ryan’s sister picked up from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (or “that French film”, as it’s known in Up in the Air). Jason Bateman returns, only this time he’s not the adoptive father who teaches Juno the kinks of old rock and Suspiria, now he’s Ryan’s boss. The internal loneliness of Bateman has gone over to Clooney for this film.
All in all, Up in the air is a comedy, it’s a sign of our social times (in twenty years people look at this as “that comedy from the economic depression”) and it’s a tale about travelling and loneliness. I did find the film occasionally dragging on in the second third, but bear in mind that Juno had a slow start too (if you find my old review, you’ll find I hated that film for the first fifteen minutes). Remain seated for the credits as there’s a fitting song for the soundtrack. Up in the Air ends up with a firm 7/10.