Honestly, to my mind it's hard to review "independent" movies (can we even call them independent anymore? I mean, they're not really independent. They still show at festivals, but so do many other things. "Art cinema"? "Mood pieces"?) because in general the plot doesn't really matter so much as the acting and the message. Think about it, most movies that fit into this genre (and oh yes, it's a genre unto itself) are not about the story so much as the story is a flimsy structure on which to get the point across.
Such is the case with "Up in the Air" a film on the surface about a man who has created an insular life for himself and judges his success based on the number of miles he accumulates. But moreover it's a film about the difficulty find a connection in an uncertain world. George Clooney plays a man who flies across the country as a corporate downsizer, his life is the road (or, more accurately, the sky) and the loner life he's carved out is perfect for him. In his spare time he flies all around the country (sense a pattern?) doing motivational speaking engagements which are thinly disguised speeches about how he lives his life.
It's also about how his life is thrown up in the air (ha) by two very different women: Alex (Vera Farmiga) the sexy frequent flying business woman whom he bonds with over a shared desire for closeness in their equally transitory lives. And, Natalie a new woman at his company who wants to change the business model and permanently ground him. Both teach him valuable lessons, ask tough questions, and become very important in a somewhat Jiminy Cricket way.
I'm sorry, does it seem like I'm undervaluing this film's greater message? I'm not, really, it's just that the-value-of-human-connection motif is a well-worn path in films- especially the artsy-set. To overlay that message over the current economics crisis' unemployment explosion seems somewhat overkill. But, as there are correlations and the whole affair is really well-acted I'll somewhat let it slide.
The 2 biggest gripes I have with this movie is how thoroughly predictable it is, although as I mentioned the "plot is secondary" I guess I should ignore that, but, even if the plot is fifth on the list, this level of predictability is just sad. Secondly, the message is so beaten into our heads. Stupid people rarely watch art films, and those that do don't like it and don't care. So why dumb down the message?
All in all "Up in the Air" is worth seeing for some wonderful acting, Anna Kendrick is particularly sensational, if a less than remarkable story. C+/B-