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Up in the Air marks a comedown from Jason Reitman’s auspicious first two features, Thank You for Smoking and Juno, narrowly centered as it is on a narrowly self-centered hero, a travelling corporate downsizer, a hired hatchet man, now a potential dinosaur whose way of life is threatened — by long-distance terminations via the innovation of video conferencing — before he can reach his lone life’s goal of becoming just the seventh man in history, and the youngest ever, to log ten million air miles and to reap the benefits that come with that milestone. The smirky smugness of a backsliding George Clooney, back at least as far as Danny Ocean if not all the way to Dr. Ross on ER, makes him an unlikely candidate to be handing out pink slips, unless as a grotesque expressionistic subjective projection of the pink-slip recipients. The recipients themselves, while widely varied in type, many of them having been downsized in real life, are for the most part penned up in bum’s-rush montages. And the movie overall seems to share rather too much of the protagonist’s glibness and frigidity. Waiting for a crack to appear in his façade is a sufficiently conventional plot hook, and patching up the crack afterwards is an insufficiently unconventional ending.

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