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Grounding Up in the Air

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Of all the movies at holiday time Up in the Air seems poised for the most lofty awards as well as commercial success. A luncheon at 21 was planned for the movie prior to the announcement of its Golden Globes nominations. Before, we were talking about an exceptionally sophisticated indie film with a big star, George Clooney, in the lead. Now we are looking at a wunder-film that hits the Zeitgeist just so, landing on every top ten list, with major Oscar potential, and yet, the celebration at 21 could not have been more grounded.

As it happened, two years ago, when director Jason Reitman had a little film called Juno, a luncheon at 21 featured their famous hamburger. Juno played winningly by Ellen Page had a hamburger phone and plastic versions were doled out for a winning ticket. Sigourney Weaver got one for her daughter Charlotte. That kvell fest proclaimed a father (producer Ivan)/ son (writer/director/producer Jason) collaboration made in heaven. With Up in the Air, the menu ratcheted up. Munching on filet mignon, several fathers sat with their spawn -- so labeled by one Jenny Lumet, whose father Sidney was also there -- as was Arne Glimscher and son Marc, newly the father of a four-day-old son Alexander. Ah, the joys of family!

Father Ivan made a proud speech ending with, "and he's one hell of a writer." Son Jason returned, and my favorite card on the credits is the one that reads, "Produced by Ivan Reitman." And so it went.

Among Jason Reitman's abundant talents is his attention to casting, and, aside from the brilliance of George Clooney, everybody's charming leading man, in Up in the Air, the women excel: Vera Farmiga, for example, proclaimed the least famous working actress some years ago in a New York Times Magazine piece just prior to her performance in The Departed. As Clooney's lover, she's smart, sassy, and sexy, a woman in control. Reitman spotted her work and wanted her for the part.

As to young Anna Kendrick, the director said he wrote the part for her. "Of course he didn't tell me that at the audition," Anna said. Her role as a young protégé, a sidekick in the sloppy business of efficiently laying workers off, is sure to win her a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She is so pert and snappily efficient, she reminded me of Reese Witherspoon in Election. I get a lot of that, she said, and when I met Reese Witherspoon I told her, to wit Witherspoon replied, "You must hate that, being compared to me." "Are you kidding," said Kendrick, "I love that."
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