At the Theater #3: Up in the Air

The central theme of Up in the Air is rejection. Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, rejects anything that will keep him tied down: his family, a furnished apartment, a closet full of clothes, preferring to live in the places in between. Those places in-between are sky high, in the first class section of American Airlines. Ryan’s best friends are the magnetic stripes of his various loyalty program cards, allowing him to rush past lines. What he’s rushing to isn’t his destination though, it’s his first class airline seat.
No one is immune to rejection to the movie. As a professional firer, Clooney delivers corporate rejection. His protégé and nemesis, Cornell grad and corporate up and comer Natalie, played by Twilight’s Anna Kendrick, is initially rejected by Clooney and faces further rejection as the film goes on. Clooney’s family starts out being rejected by him and it isn’t long before they start rejecting each other. Anyone is any kind of relationship, familial, romantic or corporate, is sent through the ringer.

It’s a very good movie and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Clooney get as many award nominations for this as he did for Michael Clayton two years ago.

But if any actor in this movie deserves an award, it’s J.K. Simmons. He makes every movie he’s in better. Jason Reitman knows this and was smart to cast him again. Whenever I see his name in a film’s opening credits, I smile, because not matter what part he’s given, his scenes shine. He has a small part here, as a father of two who laid off by Ryan and Natalie but man does he shine.

He has to be the most under-rated actor working in Hollywood today. If any actor makes the transition over in the Spider-Man reboot from the old franchise to the new one, I really hope it is J.K. He was J. Jonah Jameson come to life right off the comic book page.

J.K. as J.J.J.

He was great as Juno’s dad in Jason Reitman’s first film. He had the best lines in the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading. This blog is officially a fan of J.K. Simmons.