Up in the Air

  • Review Date: December 3, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Adult dramedy taps into emotions of current tough times.
  • Review Date: December 3, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 109 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie brings a fresh perspective to the cliched but true lesson that no man (or woman) is an island. It suggests that in these challenging times, connection may just be the way to survive.

Positive role models

Main character Ryan is a decent man trying to do a very difficult job: firing people. Though he can’t do much to help them, he displays unusual empathy for their situation. That said, he’s a pretty isolated guy, proudly unrooted. But he discovers that he needs more in his life and sets out to get it -- as well as give to others. A colleague tries to do her job well, too, but she forgets that efficiency can’t replace humanity. Another character appears to be sympathetic, but she’s complicated: married and constricted by that commitment.


A man is briefly shown toting a firearm in an imaginary sequence. Workers who’ve been fired curse and talk about killing themselves; one tosses a chair around in frustration.


A woman is briefly shown naked from behind, with nothing on but a necktie wrapped around her waist. She and her lover kiss and tussle in bed. They also talk about sex fairly candidly and send each other suggestive messages -- overall, they're shown teasing and bantering more often than having sex. A married character cheats on her husband; another is left by her boyfriend.


Fairly frequent use of everything from “a--hole” to “s--t” to “f--k," as well as "ass," "hell," "crap," "prick," and "oh my God."


American Airlines feels like a “proud sponsor” of the film since its logo is visible nearly every time the main character has to travel. Many other logos and brands associated with business travel also pop up throughout the movie, including Hilton, Hertz, and Marriott.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking at bars and parties; at one point, a group of revelers is happily intoxicated. A few tiny bottles of liquor are shown tucked in one character’s fridge.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Jason Reitman's thoughtful drama about a man (played by George Clooney) who fires people for a living (criss-crossing the country by plane to do so) examines uncomfortable, grown-up truths both timely (unemployment, financial stress) and perennial -- family dysfunction and loneliness. Still, despite its heavy themes, strong language (including "s--t" and "f--k"), and some sexual interplay between characters (including brief rear nudity), it has enormous empathy and insight that may resonate with older teens who are trying to grapple with and understand increasingly complex issues.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) has a dream: To be the seventh person ever to accumulate 10 million frequent-flier miles. And he’s not far off. He spends 270 days a year in the air; airports and planes and hotels are home to him. When he’s not on the motivational circuit, extolling the virtues of carrying a lightly packed symbolic backpack -- both objects and people can weigh you down, you see -- he’s zigzagging the country to assist companies in firing their workers. And amazingly, he does it with more than a modicum of empathy and soul. But a young upstart (Twilight supporting player Anna Kendrick) is convinced that the process can be mechanized -- which could ground Bingham short of his goal, take him away from another business traveler (Vera Farmiga) he’s fallen in love with, and make him examine what -- and where -- is really home.

Is it any good?


UP IN THE AIR is by no means perfect. To start, it hits screenplay mileposts a little too on the nose, like an A student raising his hand for yet another crack at an answer we know he'll get. And yet it takes us to places we never quite expect. It’s irreverent when we think it will be serious; serious when we think it will go for laughs. It’s surprising -- and that doesn’t happen often in the movies these days.

Based on a bestselling novel by Walter Kirn, Jason Reitman's film is literary without being self-consciously so. Clooney delivers perhaps his best performance yet, with more nuance and less reliance on his usual tics (the downcast looks, the easy smile). The vulnerability he displays with Farmiga, a worthy female counterpart, convinces but doesn’t overplay. Bingham's journey is one we’ve all found ourselves on: how to connect in a world that makes it so easy to be within reach, yet so hard to reach out, even to family. It also captures these challenging times, when jobs and, yes, people seem expendable. And yet, they’re not: The film gives them a voice, one downsized worker at a time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Bingham’s job: Is it a difficult one? Does he enjoy it? Why does he seem committed to doing it? Does it make him a bad guy or good? What about Natalie, his colleague?

  • How does the movie capture a particular moment in history? Does it seem realistic, or has it been Hollywood-ized?

  • Who do you think the movie is trying to reach? Does it succeed?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 4, 2009
DVD release date:March 9, 2010
Cast:Anna Kendrick, George Clooney, Vera Farmiga
Director:Jason Reitman
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and some sexual content

This review of Up in the Air was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written by4Spice June 15, 2010

good movie

this movie was ok not if looking for a action movie don't watch this one some good funny parts 16 and over for sex and language
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byBrando804 January 3, 2010

An excelent film with values, humor, and a decent story for hard times

I just saw this film, and i have to say, I was impressed. I'm not normally into the "indies" so-called, but this film was different. Up In the Air is different. It has a good story about hard times, humor, and lots of heart. The film did not deserve its R-Rating. Anyone over the age of 10 who goes to school hears this kind of language every day. And lets face it, when your pre-pubescent 12-year-old says their going to their friend's house for a sleepover, their going to rent movies like 'The Hangover', and 'Saw'. So trust me, by age 10 kids have been exposed to the worst of it. (and also, part of this was filmed in St. Louis, where I live. So that was somewhat exciting to see.)
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old May 22, 2010

Don't get the idea it's a comedy

Good movie with complex plot and great characters. You can discuss it for hours. The problem is that the main character's job is firing people and the people's reactions are very sad. Many curse and yell but quite a few cry (including a grown man) and show pictures of their families and how they can't afford anything anymore. One even calmly states she's going to jump off a bridge and carries through with it later in the film. There are up points and down points but the ending isn't completely happy. The relationships are dishonest and there is tons of sexual innuendo. ***hole, f--k, and s--t are the main bad words said but there are also littler ones said. We see a female's butt and see 2 people in bed (and a handful of people in the background making out) but don't see them doing it... we come afterward. American Airlines, Hertz, and Hilton are popular names in the movie
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?


What are the different ways that you access Common Sense Media ratings and information? (Check all that apply)

Essential Apps Guide