| Ryan Bingham (George Clooney from “Michael Clayton” and “Syriana”) is a different kind of corporate headhunter. He travels around the country to fire people rather than hire them. He works for a company based in Omaha, Neb., that contracts to do the dirty work for bosses who don’t have the guts to terminate their own employees.
The title, based on the novel by Walter Kirn, refers to the comfort zone where Bingham spends most of his time. His window to the world consists of blue skies and puffy white clouds.
He is a confirmed bachelor who avoids all human entanglements. His goal is to become the seventh person to log 10 million frequent flier miles on American Airlines. Bingham’s cherished existence is made even sweeter by the perks and privileges amassed through various honors programs with hotels and rental car companies.
His nomadic lifestyle is about to change with the hiring of Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick from “Twilight” and “New Moon”), an arrogant 23-year-old Cornell graduate. She has developed an Internet-based videoconferencing system that will cut the travel budget by 85 percent and literally ground road warriors like Bingham.
Bingham is assigned to show her the ropes on one last aerial road trip with stops in St. Louis, Wichita, Kansas City, Tulsa, Des Moines, Miami and Detroit. He has just met Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga from “The Departed”), his female equivalent. They enter into a casual sexual relationship with no strings attached. Then Bingham falls in love and appears ready to make a lasting human connection.
With the exception of a few actors like J.K. Simmons (“Juno” and the “Spider-Man” trilogy) and Zach Galifianakis (“The Hangover”), every person fired in the film was recently terminated in real life. They were instructed to treat the camera as a hatchet man and respond as they did when they received their pink slip or use the opportunity to say what they wished they had.
Filmmaker Jason Reitman (“Juno” and “Thank You For Smoking”), who directs and co-wrote the adapted screenplay with Sheldon Turner (“The Longest Yard”), pushes all the right buttons and effectively takes the pulse of America’s work force living with the constant fear of losing their jobs in the current recession.
The movie contains a host of modern communication methods via laptop computers, cell phones and text messaging. There is very little production design since most of the movie takes place in airplanes, airports and offices. High-angle aerial shots are shown of every city visited.
The dialogue is smart and clever, conveying warmth, humor and honest emotions. You are willing to take this emotional journey and experience the transformative arcs of the well-developed characters.
Clooney has an endearing charm and gives another award-worthy performance. His handsome, clean-cut appearance is accentuated by fashionable clothing selections. Farmiga is an adorable beauty with sex appeal and shows off her versatile acting chops.
Critics and people in the know predict she could be the next Meryl Streep.
Clooney and Farmiga have a sizzling chemistry that makes you root for their characters to become a permanent pairing.
The talented Kendrick in a breakthrough role is the spark plug in this enterprise. Her character’s career is really secondary to a desire to find the right guy, settle down and have children. The movie stresses the importance of sharing the precious moments and special memories in life with a companion, family and friends. The wise saying that “no man is an island” rings true.
The movie flows smoothly with perfect pacing. It never wears out its welcome as the running time of 109 minutes passes by quickly. The songs in the soundtrack, including a remix of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” over the opening credits, are played at appropriate times to set the mood.
This crowd-pleaser is currently the frontrunner to win the Oscar for best film of 2009. An early harbinger of its esteemed status was garnering awards for best picture, best adapted screenplay, best supporting actress (Kendrick) and best actor (Clooney in a tie with Morgan Freeman for “Invictus”) from The National Board of Review. This cinematic gem is one of my favorite films of the year. It is now playing exclusively at AMC Studio 30 and AMC Mainstreet 6 before a wide release on Dec. 23.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"