I leave the US tonight, after a wonderful three-week stay, with George Clooney as the icing. This past weekend, my housemates and I braved the first snow storm (if that at all) to head into NYC to catch a pre-release show of the much acclaimed, much awaited and deservedly so film “Up In The Air”. I watched my life in rewind.
A boldly scripted, well paced screenplay, the film is about a corporate assassin (HR outplacement specialist to you) who ruthlessly moves from company to company across city to city, pink-slipping his targets with mastery of words and control. All for the pursuit of air-miles. The elite currency of the soulless world of corporate trolls who trudge through flights convincing themselves that being referred to by name whether checking into an aircraft or a hotel, is the ultimate acknowledgement of their personal sacrifices, their privileged status.
The stark truth of Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham is well contrasted by Anna Kendrick’s portrayal of a pert, young associate whose classic fresh-out-of-school-and-into-job optimism transforms to a conscience exercised by the end of the film. It makes me realize, we always have a choice. Only most of us are comforted by a self-prescribed pragmatism that it is indeed, all in a day’s work.
The ‘love’ angle in the film comes in the form of alpha-female Alex (note, no last name and that’s making a point about what matters in straight-to-business airplane romances) played by Vera Farmiga. She is Bingham in a skirt, only ten steps ahead and even more emotionally hijacked.
The film triangulates between all three protagonists with ease, bringing together a non-preachy, light-hearted look at some serious lessons for our times; the senselessness of the hire-fire culture; the transactional nature of middle-aged romance; the right to preserve dreams and values. It has no ending, but is a choice in continuity – a unique way to achieve cinematic closure.
As for me, after 20 years of ploughing the professional fields of dream, it took the last 10 months to revive my humane side. Clooney’s character was like a page from my life in the recent past. Building and de-constructing organizations with a passionate balance of right and wrong, over the years, became a clinical chore in the end. The game was all about the elite status.
Having made the journey to the other side, and while I have no regrets for my past, for in it, were the seeds of my future, I am today, more content than ever, building and re-constructing personal relationships.
And those air miles? I’m burning them doing just that.
Thanks George. I cracked the code. The way to be Up In the Air is with my feet on the ground.
The film releases on Christmas Day. Don’t miss it.