I returned "Into the Woods" to the video store, saying "Know what this movie needs? Lots more Anna Kendrick, and lots less everyone else." So I rented "Up in the Air," figuring the movie that fetched her an Oscar nomination would fit that bill, though she wouldn't be singing. (In fact, she did sing.)
I thought "Up in the Air" was so good that I hurried to RottenTomatoes to read critic reviews. My favorite film writer, Dana Stevens at slate dot com — said she downgraded it from sparking to smug two days after seeing in, so it registered as a rotten tomato. She said "Up in the Air" was like a churro: delicious at the start, eventually congealing into its lard and sugar components.
Gee, I thought, did Dana Stevens and I disagree twice in a row? Because she wasn't crazy about "Avengers: Age of Ultron", either.
My brain spun while I tried to sleep later. Yay for me, I called the suicide. While George Clooney and Anna Kendrick fired people, the movie showed real and scripted reactions by real folks who got canned — when the scripted lady said she was going to throw herself off a bridge, I thought: "That's what's going to happen. She's going to kill herself, and it'll cause George Clooney and Anna Kendrick to take stock."
I was right. Usually, a movie gets poor marks from me when I predict the happenings (worst thing about "Dark Knight Rises" was the pair of teenaged girls beside me, one of whom nailed every bit like she wrote it), but in the case of "Up in the Air", it was an Oscar-worthy moment for Anna Kendrick and I'd enjoyed the movie so much that I waved myself off with 'eh, you've seen too many movies'.
But while I was turning in bed, it hit me that many people called the suicide, because it was set up in the imaginary Zach Galifianakis sequence. The audience was manipulated into accepting that something crazy like a laid-off employee "going postal" might occur later in the movie.
Whoa, I thought. That's what Dana Stevens was talking about. Her good review went south in a day or two, while the churro analogy suddenly made sense.
Similarly, the biggest surprise was Vera Farmiga turning out to be married with children, even though the character sold herself as free, mobile, and unattached like the George Clooney character, "but with a vagina," she said. Which turned out to be a lie, though we and George Clooney were all expecting the typical romcom "walk out of an important thing to run through the airport and find the beloved" ending. The big reveal was a blow to George Clooney and to the audience because we all thought she was falling in love. I don't think a frequent traveler getting some George Clooney enroute is going to say the things she said — again, it looked bad on reflection, like the chewed-up churro.
Yes, it was a happy surprise that they found a plausible way to get Anna Kendrick to sing in a non-musical movie, a karaoke version of my favorite Cyndi Lauper song at a company party. Totally reasonable, yet in retrospect, perhaps too convenient.
All told, I found myself falling in with Dana Stevens. "Up in the Air" was great at first blush, but seemed to weaken with each look in the rear view mirror.