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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Up in the Air

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Though a polished comic drama, "Up in the Air" (Paramount) also is an abortive conversion story with a morally ambivalent conclusion.

As soon as we're introduced to emotionally isolated, yet strangely contented, single businessman Ryan Bingham (a predictably deft George Clooney), we know he's ripe for change.

Ryan spends most of his life in chain hotels and airports as he travels from city to city firing employees on behalf of downsizing corporate clients. He also gives seminars in which he uses a backpack to symbolize the weighty burden, not only of material possessions, but of family and social connections as well.

But Ryan's rootless ways are threatened by his tech-savvy new colleague Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who wants their company to save expenses by terminating workers via the Internet, thus grounding Ryan permanently at the Tulsa, Okla., home office.

As Ryan takes Natalie on the road to demonstrate the futility of her scheme, he also reveals the combination of calm ruthlessness and insightful compassion that make him a master of his unusual craft. (Poignant scenes involving the distressed reactions of those being informed that their positions are "no longer available" were filmed using real workers recently laid off in Detroit and St. Louis.)

Another potential tear in Ryan's cocoon is achieved when his relationship with fellow executive wanderer Alex (Vera Farmiga), begun as a casual bedroom romp, gradually turns into something deeper. An invitation to his sister's wedding, meanwhile, also has Ryan reconsidering the value of family life.

Director and co-writer (with Sheldon Turner) Jason Reitman's screen version of Walter Kirn's novel is initially engaging and adroitly acted throughout. But the script winks at commitment-free encounters, while what appear at first to be the life-altering events of the plot turn out to be mere incidents with, the narrative suggests, little spiritual impact.

The film contains off-screen adulterous and nonmarital sexual activity, brief rear nudity, much sexual talk including lesbianism and masturbation references, a few uses of profanity and much rough and crude language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

******
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

 
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