February 28th, 2010

travel

Now Say Something Nice

So we saw Up in the Air last night after a lovely day of yarn shopping and Duckfat-nomming with justbeast  (who knits now!), kythryne , and Amy who I think has no LJ. And I figure that after a scathing review I owe a good one. Of course, if I didn't breathe fire from time to time, you wouldn't know whether to believe me when I say something is good.

I think justbeast  said it best: "My standards for movies have gotten so low that whenever anyone onscreen says anything wise or subtle, I'm shocked."

And it's true. This was a surprisingly good and subtle and uneasy movie, and I really liked it--even to kind of wanting to watch it again. And there were no robots or anything! Which I say as a joke because as bankrupt as much of filmed genre work is, relationship dramas and rom coms are a million times worse and it's been awhile since I've seen anything approaching a believable human in "realist" film. Or books, really. I empathize with the Terminator far more than Julia Roberts, dig?

Anyway. What really struck me about the movie was how familiar it was. See, we travel. We travel a lot. I recognized most of the airports used before the subtitle went up, because I've been there, I've walked those long corridors, I've stopped at each of the shops. The whole sequence with his smooth, routine passage through security was awesome because that's how I am. I don't get treated like Clooney's character does because I'm a 30 year old woman who dresses like some kind of Victorian wastrel-cum-torch-singer half the time, but I know that ghost country. That liminal space that airports are, belonging to no state or time, endless, mammoth, constantly in transit, in motion, a place where you blink, and go somewhere else. The closet between worlds, purgatory, nul-space. I know what it's like to live half your life there. Of course, we often drive, and that is gentler, less abrupt, and we do it together, we always have each other's company. We have, literally and figuratively, matching suitcases.

And the hotels, too, the conventions, the cities you never see because you're on a panel in a ballroom talking about magical realism. The suitcase you never really unpack. Obviously, my experience is a small version of the film, and I'm traveling not to fire people (oh, man, those were hard scenes to watch!) but to talk about my books. But still, it hit me with the force of recognition.

So too the "backpack" stuff, which mad me realize that motivational speakers are simply hawkers of metaphor. They choose one--backpack, parachute, secret, etc, and ask: does this metaphor help you understand yourself? No? How about this one? It's fascinating to think about--they really are writers of fiction, a kind of fiction that uses the most basic narratives it can in order to appeal to the most people. In this case, it could have so easily been about boring male commitment issues and a loathing of ever being tied to anything in life, and it skirted that, but never quite fell in. He didn't learn a heartwarming Scrooge lesson and get the biggest goose in the window. And at least this male was a grown up in the sense of being good at his job, polished, competent, charming, and looking like George Clooney, instead of the spate of Apatow-schlubs we've been so enamoured with as a culture lately.

Is it perfect? No. It's possibly the most depressing and ambiguous ending I've seen in an ostensibly comedic movie. But that's fairly appropriate, given the material, and the underlying horror of the endless firings, which, you know, we live in Maine, which could have been one of the places Clooney visited (I winced at each city, because I knew how many layoffs there were in such places. It was so painful, and familiar, given our own year of joblessness) and there was a lot of uncomfortable, half-cathartic laughter in the audience.

I'm not wild about the reveal with regards to Vera Farmiga's character, as I think it's a bit problematic and not fully explicated, and undermines her for me in a way I don't really like at all--plus I want to know what she does for a living that she travels like he does despite the reveal--but I adored her through most of the movie. Her quiet awesomeness, and the scene with the younger woman which is probably the only believable scene I've ever watched that tackles generational issues head on. I felt for both of them so much--especially because my generation falls between those two, with concerns and fears all our own that are rarely part of any film, so I could understand both their points of view. What I was going to be by the time I was 23, and what actually living your life after 23 does to your expectations. I'm not that young girl who followed a boy anymore, but I'm not Farmiga yet either, and so I felt literally stretched by the scene where two women were talking to each other about their desires and heartaches and the guy just looked on and nodded and didn't feel the need to break in every five seconds. Like, in real life, that never happens. Maybe this was science fiction after all.

It was beautiful and sad and upsetting and uncomfortable and funny and I am in love with Vera Farmiga from now until forever. Part of me wants to be her (until the reveal). Part of me knows how hard that life is and how it takes me so long to psychically recover from periods of insane travel like that. I guess I maybe don't know what I want to be when I grow up yet. I guess a movie that makes me think about that and not want to stab myself is a damn good thing. 
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