I would be a fool if I did not at least mention I had seen Antichrist here at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival, and though beautifully shot, the film is among the most repellent works I have ever seen. That said, I have been unable to think about much else since seeing it. ‘Nuff said.
Up in the Air might be the best film of the year, a superbly acted, directed and written film that brings out the very best in George Clooney, who stars as Ryan, a man traveling America firing company employees when their own bosses lack the courage to do so. Beyond the social and economic relevance of the film, the picture is a love story about a man trying to find something about himself to love, and being terrified he can’t.
Ryan has set up a life for himself where he is constantly on the road, never home, lives out of a suitcase and has mastered the art of fast check-ins at airports and hotels, all the while edging closer to his goal of ten million frequent-flyer miles. When he meets a young lady and they become close, the last thing he is looking for is a relationship, but as he falls for her, he discovers the last thing she wants is a relationship.
Clooney has never been better than he is here as Ryan, and he may win an Academy Award for this riveting performance that is tinged with sadness. This is a man we might know, this man might be some us, and we understand what a sad existence he really inhabits. Vera Farmiga is outstanding as the women he falls for, and in a stunning supporting performance, Anne Kendrick shines as the junior executive who comes up with an idea to fire people online, thereby killing the need for travel, which is, of course, Ryan’s worst nightmare. The road trip they take changes both of their lives.
Jason Reitman is a very smart director; he knows exactly what to get out of his actors and precisely what story to tell. Coming at a time when so many people are losing their jobs, he has made a film that is sensitive to those who are out of work, but sassy enough to poke a bit of fun at the reality of being fired and how we react. As the film says, being fired is a new beginning. Yet Reitman’s greatest move is that he shows the pain of being fired, which we often view as a failure, and the terror of being alone, which is our greatest failure.
Matt Damon will also likely be an Oscar-nominee for his superb performance in The Informant! portraying a high-powered executive who blows the whistle on his company, all the while believing he will be forgiven for the pain he has caused and rewarded with the job of CEO. Of course once the FBI begins to explore the case, they see that he is not exactly the most honest informant. In fact he is an embezzler who lies so often he he has likely forgotten how to tell the truth.
It is a brilliant piece of acting from Damon, energetic and downright buoyant, but there is always something dark happening around his eyes, something that does not quite ring true. Steven Soderbergh has long been one of the best directors in movies, winning an Oscar for Best Director for Traffic (2000) and a nomination that same year for Erin Brockovich (2000). Here he seems almost stumped about what kind of film he is making – Is it a comedy? A satire? A black comedy? A drama? The music by Marvin Hamlisch certainly suggests that the film is a comedy, but the situations are far too dramatic from time to time to be entirely comedic. Thankfully, Damon hits all the right notes and saves the film with his brilliant performance.
That’s it for now from the Toronto International Film Festival. Check back for more later.