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Up in the Air

December 30, 2009 | by Shira Albertson

Jason Reitman’s new film got a bunch of well-deserved Golden Globe nominations, but it is also a little depressing.

I am an old-fashioned girl. Although not sentimental, I do perhaps have a latent romantic streak. After all, I like movies with happy endings. I like good triumphing over evil, I like guy gets girl (or vice versa), I like applauding happy family situations.

I left Up in the Air, in a state of depression.

Which is why I left the latest George Clooney movie, Up in the Air, in a state of depression. That’s not to say it wasn’t an excellent movie and undeserving of its 6 Golden Globe nominations. It was. It was thoughtful and thought-provoking -- and one of those rare birds, a movie for grown-ups.

I spoke to a young successful professional man in his twenties about the movie. “What did you think?”

“A little long, a little boring,” was his initial response. We didn’t discuss the plot detail. There was no point. It was clear to me that he couldn’t relate.

How could he possibly understand the trauma of job loss to middle-aged men and women? He couldn’t empathize with their practical fears about feeding their families, health care (this is NOT a political plug) or losing their home. He couldn’t relate to their sense of emotional loss, to the idea that the company they worked for and its employees could operate as a second family. He couldn’t understand how our sense of self-esteem is connected to our work productivity and accomplishment.

But my husband and I could. We could easily empathize with their pain. And even though we all know that ultimately our real self is our soul, our inner core, and not our career choice, it is hard to escape the societal and emotional pressure that says otherwise. Depressing point #1.

Although we didn’t discuss it, I am guessing he found the failed romantic relationships in the movie humorous. I’m guessing he didn’t see the pain and confusion beneath the surface. He is too young to imagine a road not taken and to see the consequences so clearly. The determinative power of the choices we make was highlighted in bold relief and woe to those who don’t choose wisely or wait until it’s too late.

Although it’s never too late for the most significant choice of all -- a relationship with the Almighty -- we can make other self-destructive decisions in our lives that limit our future options -- in all ways. Depressing point #2.

And along the same lines, our hero (still good-looking after all these years!) has established a philosophy of life that has trapped him in loneliness. He has developed a motivational presentation based on shedding all loving relationships and traveling with as light a load as possible. Although the movie illuminates the emptiness and pain of this perspective, it doesn’t solve it. It is not so easily reframed. Depressing point #3.

It was an interesting, sophisticated movie. I did not, like my young friend, find it slow. But entertaining? No.

For the same money, I’d rather just smile and see The Princess and The Frog one more time!

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