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Up in the Air

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(2009) ★★

BBC2: Saturday 25 April, 10.15pm

Corporate downsizing trouble-shooter George Clooney flies around America in the winter of 2010, laying off people whose bosses are too cowardly to grasp the nettle of cutbacks. Clooney loves his airport lounge life and he’s on the verge of ten million frequent flyer miles. What could go wrong? Comeuppance would be good, but it might be a long time coming in a glib satirical comedy full of soulless characters who find status and elitism… sexy.

Like Matt Damon’s The Informant!, it’s a smartly groomed story of unusually dull people involved in a dingy back-stabbing business. As it creeps ever closer to dissolving in sentimentality (complete with a soundtrack of weedy indie songs), it reveals a backbone of pure plasticene.

Unlike, say, Jack Lemmon’s Save the Tiger, it doesn’t even have the courage of its own lack of convictions. Since debuting with the amusingly offensive Thank You For Smoking, director Jason Reitman has put on a succession of cinematic seatbelts: Juno, Young Adult, Labor Day, Men, Women & Children… and this.

Up in the Air makes Clooney’s Michael Clayton seem like a Hitchcock picture. If only the producers had the courage to give the film to someone like American Psycho director Mary Harron, she’d have sliced right through the slimy cynicism. But that was never likely to happen: the producers are Jason Reitman and his dad, Ghostbusters man Ivan.

It’s full of brittle, emptily clever lines, but the emptiest, cleverest one was left on the posters: “The story of a man ready to make a connection.”

Certificate: 15
Duration: 109min