Up in the Air



Adult dramedy taps into emotions of current tough times.
Popular with kids
  • 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.

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

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


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; OK 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.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Feel-good Cruise flick; racier than you remember.
  • Edgy, sweet book-based dramedy has profanity, mature themes.
  • Lovely and well worth sharing with your family.
  • Mostly clever comedy about lobbyists. For adults.

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 byScoobysnacks_8371 February 4, 2010
You know for those of you that believe it doesn't deserve an R rating let's go ahead and let some naked woman walk through your living room with your kids and husband sitting there, then what would you do??!! I consider any movie that has nudity porno! I bet it would be total different if it was a man naked walking around in the movie! It's pretty bad when movies now days can't keep nakedness out of it! I mean really why do we have to see people have sex to enjoy a comedy movie? it's so stupid me and my husband are so tired of this!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent 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 overall message that life is pointless, but it's not as bad when you have someone to share it with. Clooney jumps in bed with a fellow traveler only to find out later that it was meaningless and can go nowhere. A depressing movie about a guy who ends up alone.
Parent of a 14 year old Written byblublublu March 13, 2010

Why is this R?

Absolutely no reason for its R rating. good moral (in the end), he realizes that he doesnt have it all, in fact, he has very little. when the young one gets broken up with, she starts crying hysterically, which is a little weird. Should have won best picture.
What other families should know
Great messages


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

Star Wars Guide