I have to say that going into this, I had a little apprehension. Yet another mid-life white male dealing with an existential crisis set to an indie soundtrack. I've seen this bit before. And while the movie never entirely escapes that sense of mainstream indie familiarity, it's a very good example of it if that makes any sense. Its sharply written, well acted and covers all the bases it needed to cover. And if it were a film released in 2003 it would be spellbinding. Released in 2009 however, its simply an excellent example of a movie we've already seen.
The plot sees corporate hatchet man Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a dude who travels the country firing employees for bosses too gutless to do it themselves. Its a life of the kind of loneliness, constant movement and corporate culture that's ready for a good existential slap in the face, which he receives from a younger, fresh-faced corporate rival (Anna Kendrick) and a romantic trist with a fellow yuppie of the skies (Vera Farmiga). Director Jason Reitman's follow up to monster cult hit Juno, is definately pitched as being Reitman's maturing picture. The movie where he goes from talented young upstart to genuine independent bigshot. And for the most part I think he's pulled that off. This is large part thanks to his leading man Clooney, who delivers a terrifcly thoughtful, and moving performance. Clooney as a screen presence works for me because of how restrained he is in dramatic roles. Its always in the eyes, and there's anincreasing sadness to his aging matinee idol look that is very intruiging. He's becoming an actor I really have time for. Its him that really makes this movie I think, and Reitman should be very appreciative. Having said that, there's some great work here from the ensemble, particular Vera Farmiga who has been in quite a few great movies with some great performances without really making a name for herself. I wasn't quite as sold on Anna Kendrick as the rest of the film blogging world, but I'll admit she has one or two fantastic scenes, but her character can be a bit broadly sketched at times. Jason Bateman, in a large perfunctory role, is again fantastic having put together a respectable set of work since the demise of Arrested Development. Kudos too to J.K Simmons, who in a very brief cameo shows again what a great and underrated actor he is.
The film too is intelligently, if not astoundingly written, and Reitman seems to have quite a good ear for subtle corporate satire. I liked this movie a lot, and give particular credit for sticking with its downer instincts, but I can only tiptoe around the indie familiarity thing for so long, and at times it does feel like they've got a checklist. You've seen this film before, but I doubt if you've seen it done better too many times, such is Reitman's increasing proficiency at this kind of thing.