This was a good film in all aspects: the script, adapted from a novel, was sharp and warm and resonant, but without being preachy; Jason Reitman directs with a sure touch, light when needed, visually interesting when necessary (this now makes three really good films he’s made in a row, after Thank You For Smoking and Juno); the acting from the three leads are perfect: George Clooney plays himself but also showing depths of emotion in silent reactionary moments, and Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were fully deserving of their Oscar nominations as well, playing their characters completely.
Even though the novel was written about six years beforehand, the topicality of the story resonates throughout – Clooney is a man who fires people for a living, coming in when bosses don’t have the courage to do it himself. However, Kendrick comes to the firm with the idea that they should do it all by video conference calls, which would disrupt Clooney’s perfect life, flying all around the country with no ties, hardly staying at home and living his life out of a suitcase. So the bosses send him out with Kendrick to show her the ropes. During this time, Clooney meets Farmiga, a female equivalent to Clooney, and they form a relationship (and the most sensual and erotic moment in a film in a long while, when Farmiga walks over to Clooney in a hotel room, wearing just his tie wrapped around her waist like a belt).
The film is able to take a character with whom we shouldn’t feel any empathy – Clooney deliberately avoids any connections with people, barely interacting with his own family, and giving lectures on how to get through life without any baggage, and whose only aim in life is to acquire ten million air miles – and allow us to understand him and his realisation that he may not have the answers. This could have turned into syrupy nonsense, where Clooney would have learned all about the wonders of family and love, but the film avoids such a twee ending, avoiding the easy ending and arriving at a much more appropriate denouement. I really, really liked this film, which was warm, funny, moving and well done. It’s a shame that we have to wait until the awards season for films like this to arrive.