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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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Hilary of Arles: It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. In some ways, that was true for today’s saint. 
<p>Born in France in the early fifth century, Hilary came from an aristocratic family. In the course of his education he encountered his relative, Honoratus, who encouraged the young man to join him in the monastic life. Hilary did so. He continued to follow in the footsteps of Honoratus as bishop. Hilary was only 29 when he was chosen bishop of Arles. </p><p>The new, youthful bishop undertook the role with confidence. He did manual labor to earn money for the poor. He sold sacred vessels to ransom captives. He became a magnificent orator. He traveled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing. </p><p>That was the bright side. Hilary encountered difficulty in his relationships with other bishops over whom he had some jurisdiction. He unilaterally deposed one bishop. He selected another bishop to replace one who was very ill–but, to complicate matters, did not die! Pope St. Leo the Great kept Hilary a bishop but stripped him of some of his powers. </p><p>Hilary died at 49. He was a man of talent and piety who, in due time, had learned how to be a bishop.</p> American Catholic Blog True freedom lies in the ability to align one’s actions freely with the truth, so as to achieve authentic human happiness both now and in the life to come. Jesus promised, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32).

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