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What’s in your backpack?/”Up in the Air”

February 27, 2010

by Charlie

“Up in the Air” is a movie about a man who calls airports and planes his home. In the last year Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) spent 322 days traveling for business. He flies across the country firing employees whose bosses won’t pull the plug themselves.

His perfectly organized world around airports, hotels, restaurants and duty free shops begins to falters when the newly hired Natalie (Anna Kendrick) appears and presents a computer program that makes the firing job possible simply over the internet.  There would be no need to travel for Ryan anymore.

Clooney’s character is  a motivational speaker and he is absolutely positive about his lifestyle. He uses a backpack as an image to describe it:

“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Do you feel the weight?  Do you feel the straps digging into your shoulders?”

Then he asks you to set the backpack on fire.  What things do you save

Part two of the speech (no, he doesn’t ask you to set this one on fire):

Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack; feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.”


At a hotel bar Ryan meets his female pendant Alex and eventually discovers that there is probably more to a relationship than the superficial and the casual. But this insight might come too late… .

Now here is my question: is it really like that? Is life (and that’s what the film partly tries to sell) all about big weddings and marriage as a statement of commitment?

There is no doubt; Bingham is completely responsible for his situation, i.e. that he is all alone in the end. He can’t blame anyone.

But even Natalie with her conviction wedding and marriage and kids are the goal in life, gets let down.

Just take look the annual rate of divorces or the break ups or think of the term: common-law spouse. Doesn’t that say enough???

Life is about relationships, yes. But a partner might be gone. Friends stay forever.

Quote of a friend I heard the other day: “If the relationship with my boyfriend does not work out, I’ll go back to Hamburg and get old with my friends.”

And last but not least my conclusion about the actors: George Clooney is brilliant. The part of Ryan Bingham was simply made for him. Anna Kendrick was good, as far as I can tell and I really liked Vera Farmiga. It’s a fresh and not overused face which is a rarity in the film business today.

What I don’t understand is all the Golden Globes© and Oscars© buzz about this movie. In my opinion it was not THAT good. Although the running time is only 107 minutes, it has some length…

What’s in your backpack my dear goddess? Maybe you’ll let us know?

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