Up in the Air

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Up in the Air Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Adult dramedy taps into emotions of current tough times.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytreehousejennie May 23, 2012

Not worth the effort. Not a feel-good movie.

What a waste of time. A shallow film about a guy who realizes that his life is empty, but then does nothing to change it. Leaves you disappointed with the ove... Continue reading
Parent Written byjhartsock81 June 27, 2011

Clooney what were you thinking???

No real point to this movie. Main focus is a guy who fires people for a living, when their own company and managers dont have the guts to do mass firings.
Its... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMaWalker66 April 22, 2014

Decent Movie, A little disapointing

Violence: Absolutely none, only talks of it (PG)
Sex: Sexual talk, implied sex, and brief nudity(butt) (Barely R)
Swearing: Not too bad about 25 F Wor... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 January 10, 2014

Mature dramedy with relevant themes

I was worried the first 10 minutes that "UITA" would be a bit of a snoozer, but the action really kicked in when Anna Kendrick's character came i... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

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