Up in the Air is a 2009 American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman and co-written by Reitman and Sheldon Turner. It is a film adaptation of the 2001 novel of the same name, written by Walter Kirn. The story is about a corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and his travels. The film follows his isolated life and philosophies along with the people he meets along the way. Filming was primarily in St. Louis, Missouri, which substituted for a number of other cities shown in the film. Several scenes were also filmed in Detroit, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Miami, Florida. Reitman heavily promoted Up in the Air with personal appearances during film festivals and other showings, starting with the Telluride Film Festival on September 5, 2009. The Los Angeles premiere was at the Mann Village Theater on Monday, November 30, 2009. Paramount scheduled a limited North American release on December 4, 2009, broadening the release on December 11, 2009, with a wide release on December 23, 2009. The National Board of Review and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association named Up in the Air the Best Picture of 2009. It received eight Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations and garnered a win for Adapted Screenplay, six Golden Globe nominations, earning a win for Best Screenplay, and three Screen Actors Guild nominations. It received six Academy Award nominations, but did not win in any category. Up in the Air also received recognition from numerous critics' associations.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) makes his living traveling to workplaces around the United States and breaking the news to workers that they have been let go for employers unwilling to do it themselves. Ryan also delivers motivational speeches, using the analogy "What's In Your Backpack?" to extol the virtues of a life free of burdens like relationships with people as well as things, arguing that the best way to live is to travel light, with little to hold you down. Ryan relishes his perpetual travels. His personal ambition is to earn ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. While traveling, he meets a satin-bloused, frequent flyer named Alex (Vera Farmiga). They begin a casual relationship, meeting whenever they can arrange to cross paths. Ryan is unexpectedly called back to his company's offices in Omaha, Nebraska. An ambitious, freshly graduated new hire, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), is promoting a plan to cut costs by conducting layoffs via videoconferencing. Ryan argues that Natalie knows nothing about the actual process, live or not, as she has never fired anyone and does not know how to handle upset people. He plays the role of a fired employee to show her inexperience. His boss (Jason Bateman) assigns him to take Natalie with him on his next round of terminations, much to his annoyance. Throughout the rounds, Natalie is visibly disturbed by firing people face to face. As they travel together and become better acquainted, Natalie questions Ryan's philosophy, but he is satisfied with his lifestyle. During the trip, Natalie is shattered when her boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her by text message. Ryan and Alex try to comfort her. Natalie later lectures Ryan about his refusal to consider a commitment to Alex in spite of their obvious compatibility, and becomes infuriated; she apologizes later, but soon afterwards they are ordered back to Omaha to begin implementing Natalie's program. There are problems during a test run; one laid-off man breaks down in tears before the camera, and she is unable to comfort him. Instead of returning immediately to Omaha, Ryan convinces Alex to accompany him to his younger sister Julie's (Melanie Lynskey) wedding near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He learns that the reason that Julie had him take photos of a cutout picture of her and future husband Jim (Danny McBride) in various places is because they cannot afford a honeymoon trip. When Jim gets cold feet, Ryan's older sister talks Ryan into using his motivational skills to persuade Jim to go through with it. Although this runs counter to Ryan's personal philosophy of non-commitment, he persuades Jim that "everyone needs a co-pilot" and the important moments in life are rarely unshared. The wedding takes place without any further problems. Ryan begins having second thoughts about his own life. As he starts to deliver his "What's In Your Backpack?" speech at a convention in Las Vegas, he realizes he no longer believes it and walks off the stage. On an impulse, he flies to Alex's home in Chicago, Illinois. When she opens the door, he is stunned to discover she is a married woman with children; Ryan leaves without saying a word. She later tells him on the phone that her family is her real life and he is simply an escape. On his flight home, the crew announces that Ryan has just crossed the ten-million-mile mark. The airline's chief pilot (Sam Elliott) comes out of the cockpit to meet Ryan. He notes that Ryan is the youngest person to reach the milestone; Ryan, who had been awaiting that moment for a long time, is just about speechless. Back in his office, Ryan calls the airline to transfer five hundred thousand miles each to his sister, Julie, and brother-in-law, Jim Miller, enough for them to fly around the world for their honeymoon. His boss then tells Ryan that a woman he and Natalie fired has committed suicide, just as she warned them she would, and that when Natalie found out, she immediately quit via text message and left without another word. The company puts the remote-layoff program on hold because of government concerns and puts Ryan "back on the road". Natalie applies for a job in San Francisco, California. The interviewer is impressed by her qualifications and a glowing recommendation from Ryan, and hires her. The film concludes with Ryan standing in front of a vast destination board, looking up, and letting go of his luggage, echoing a sentiment expressed by Natalie earlier.