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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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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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