Smooth ride for ‘Up in the Air’ continues in UK

Posted by · 10:09 am · October 21st, 2009

Vera Farmiga and George Clooney in Up in the AirI’m always interested to see how the more hyped Hollywood contenders for Oscar glory play in Britain, largely because there are few hard-and-fast rules for determining what will take UK critics’ (and audiences’) fancy.

Last year was a case in point: audiences here shrugged off “Milk,” while “The Wrestler” became a mini-phenomenon — though neither film offers an obvious inroad for a foreign audience. And who could have predicted that “Changeling” would find safe critical haven (not to mention a slew of BAFTA nods) with the Brits, despite receiving a kicking at home?

So I was curious to see how “Up in the Air” fared with the British press following its London premiere on Sunday, given that it’s a film with quite an American outlook. However, the universality of its recession-minded story has evidently carried through, as early reviews are uniformly warm.

The Telegraph’s Tim Robey leads the applause, with particular praise for the ensemble:

Vera Farmiga comes over as the smartest actress in Hollywood right now, so it’s no surprise how deftly she nails the role of a fellow frequent flyer and like-minded lover (“Think of me as you with a vagina”). Anna Kendrick, as Bingham’s voracious new nemesis on the workforce, is a brittle joy. Either or both will be Oscar-nominated, and so will Clooney, who has never been so subtly funny outside a press conference, or understood his own strengths as an actor better. This richly polished and adult entertainment will be unmissable come January.

The Times’s Kevin Maher is similarly enthusiastic, reserving his greatest gushing for Clooney:

This is Clooney’s movie. Yes, for much of the time he does the familiar silver-haired fox routine, espousing his “no commitments” lifestyle with a convincing dreamy-eyed smile. But there is a certain aching sadness that permeates his entire performance, and that is only fully realised in the film’s final act, suggesting deeply satisfying and hitherto unexplored depths in Clooney’s range. He weights profoundly the entire movie, and it is this performance — above anything else he has delivered this year — that will be recognised at Oscar time.

Finally, Time Out’s Tom Huddleston declares the film “flawed,” but also “a witty, thoughtful, surprisingly bleak satire on contemporary America, and the crumbling dream it represents.”

In other words, no hitches here. Expect the film to glide through the BAFTA noms as easily as it does the Oscars (not as tricky as it used to be, since they make a conscious effort to go hand-in-hand). Clooney, in particular, is well-positioned: he’s never won a BAFTA before, and his triple-header at the London Film Festival has accrued him a great deal of goodwill on this side of the ocean.

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8 responses so far

  • 1 10-21-2009 at 10:27 am

    Harmonica said...

    So, now it’s become clear that “Up in The Air” and Clooney are locks.

  • 2 10-21-2009 at 10:53 am

    Jim T said...

    “Vera Farmiga comes over as the smartest actress in Hollywood right now”

    Overstatements are not always cool. Anyway.

  • 3 10-21-2009 at 10:56 am

    mark said...


  • 4 10-21-2009 at 10:57 am

    Patrick said...

    I saw the film at the LFF and I wasn’t overly impressed. Yes, Clooney anchors the film, but I didn’t really believe in his character or find the performance to be anything special.

    It was enjoyable, but I never really connected with it on a more-than-surface level.

  • 5 10-21-2009 at 11:17 am

    red_wine said...

    Patrick, even Guy highlighted the ‘connection’ issue with the film. It seems it will be 1 of those movies that everyone will admire but whether they love it or no will depend upon how they connect to the story.

    Guy, Precious seems like an even more American story. It will be interesting to see how that is received there. Though like you said, Baftas are perhaps over-riding their natural taste to further integrate themselves in the American awards season. Afterall, Milk did manage a Best Film Bafta nomination(though I really don’t agree it was strictly an American story, it was to me more of a human rights story).

  • 6 10-21-2009 at 11:37 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I didn’t mean to imply that “Milk” was specifically an American story — but I believe Harvey Milk is a less iconic figure outside the U.S.

    I’m very curious to see how “Precious” does over here — black-focused American cinema has a very weak track record here (no Tyler Perry film has ever received a UK release, for example), and its comparatively low profile at the LFF surprised me a little.

  • 7 10-21-2009 at 2:22 pm

    BerkeleyGirl said...

    May we consider Clooney a serious contender not just for the nomination but the win?

    One thing he and Farmiga have in common – both broke through in TV. Farmiga’s first job of any significance was a lead on “Roar” – the series which also brought Heath Ledger to our shores.

  • 8 10-21-2009 at 3:58 pm

    Henry said...

    Clooney is reaching the perfect moment in his career where his talent is widely accepted but he hasn’t become old hat yet. If Up in the Air neither comes across as too light or too dark – and I’m not even clear yet which is the greater risk – I think he’s got a great shot. I can’t see Day-Lewis winning a third time right now, or Damon winning for a movie that’s already buried in October As strong as Clooney’s case could be, though, if Invictus delivers on its potential, Freeman still seems like the sentimental favorite.