The story behind how a movie finally gets made is rarely of any interest to someone who isn't propelled forward by the notion that film rejection can one day triumph over those who did the rejecting. The effort put in to making Up In The Air can almost be likened to ten million metaphorical sky miles (when you see the movie, you'll understand what the fuck I'm referencing). Walter Kirn's novel of the same name came out in 2001 and Reitman soon after began working on its adaptation in 2002. This was after Kirn's option at an unnamed studio was not renewed in the wake of September 11th reverence and paranoia. Also, Book Soup, magical place that it is, should really be thanked in the credits (maybe it is; I never sit through that shit) as that is where Jason Reitman's eye was drawn to a copy of Up In The Air.
The character of Ryan Bingham is not as special as we are supposed to believe. In fact, the characters in Reitman's previous films, Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking and Juno in Juno, are very similar to Bingham in terms of surliness and a general distaste for others who cannot see their world view.
Bingham's zeal for a life uncomplicated by relationships, commitments, or an obligation to ever buy groceries (considering he's absent from his apartment nearly 350 days a year) is so devout that he even develops an entire philosophy around it called "What's In Your Backpack?" This misanthropy is charming for a large portion of the film, until he meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a like-minded woman who has no desire for attachment to another human being.
Suddenly, Bingham, at the urgings of his reluctant disciple Natalie (played uber annoyingly by Anna Kendrick), is willing to renege on all of his former beliefs for the slim prospect of having a girlfriend. What a fucking sellout. And that is when the movie becomes another victim of the dreaded film school formula. "The character has to change," "The character has to be capable of love," "The character has to go through at least three major obstacles." Blah fucking blah. This is not to insult the abilities of Jason Reitman. He isn't responsible for the source material and he is actually one of the better directors out there in the sea of repetitious and hackneyed storytellers. But it would have been nice to see Bingham voluntarily return to his convictions instead of being forced to by default. If nothing else, at least there is a snapshot of real American life in the present climate. Its non-conciliatory grimness about employment today was an unexpected confrontation with filmic honesty.