Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Director: Jason Reitman

This is a conventional movie about an unconventional occupation.  George Clooney is a charming man, given an charmless job as a designated hitter of firing.  When a company can’t do the job of face to face meetings of people they just screwed over, then they send in Clooney to do the job.  And business is good.  He has racked up what approaches a milestone number of air miles.  In essence, he lives up in the air by grounding others.  And just when he thinks the pleasure of his disconnected life can’t be exceeded, he meets up with the woman version of himself (Farmiga).    Their combination is so good, they immediately compare schedules to determine where in the world of terminals they can meet up again.

Of course this can’t last.  A young upstart (Kendrick) has thought up a new method of firing people through online meetings.  This stretches the credibility of the firing gimmick, to be sure, but needless to say, it’s creator still has some kinks to work out, so it’s on the road with Clooney she goes.

From here we get the experience of watching a variety of layoffs and firings.  This most interesting portion of the movie is due to an incredible method employed by Reitman.  Taking out adds in St. Louis and Detroit, Reitman hired a bunch of real people who had recently lost jobs themselves to talk about it, documentary style, and relive the experience on film.  In this day and age of global economics, there is no shortage of people with that kind of history in this country.  It is not lost on the viewer that one of Clooney’s character’s motivations is the loyalty he shows to the airline that he travels when heading from location to location ridding companies of their loyal employees.

This aspect aside, there are many conventional storylines expressed in this film.  Clooney, Formiga, Kendrick and all are game to the task of making an entertaining watch, but the movie can’t get past the routine of it’s plot.  There is a certain sense of dread watching storylines begin, when you know how they each will end, but don’t want to believe it could be that easy.

One of the many funny moments, can you do us a favor?

Reitman’s got an easy style that lacks pretense; a gift he may well have gotten from his father, Ivan, who directed such classics as “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters.”  His deft touch works for moments like when Clooney’s character is asked by his sister to do their sister a “favor” for her wedding.  This favor provides many great moments throughout the movie, without feeling forced.  He moves the conventional story along and allows you to like characters you may normally despise.  None of this seems artificial.

It also lacks a substantial gravity.  By the time you get to the end of every routine storyline, the feeling is not so much an experience of life, but rather, in the spirit of the Simpsons, just a bunch of stuff that happened.

Rating ***1/2 of *****

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