Unfriendly economic skies

Up in the Air
Starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman.
Directed by Jason Reitman.

[After being scanned by security at the entrance for any recording devices, the film audience filed in and took their seats. They gathered all of their belongings — popcorn, soda, snacks — and removed their coats and stowed their bags and purses. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, the theater lights dimmed and all eyes were fixed forward. That’s when they all were regaled by a perky, yet punctilious voice:]

Now that you all are seated, and before we project tonight’s film flight of fancy, we ask that you turn off all electronic devices — BlackBerries, iPhones, Kindles, laptops, PDAs, Game Boys — and silence your cell phones. Those of you who brought young children, we ask that you please keep them quiet for the comfort and enjoyment of those around you. Please, no kicking the seat in front of you.

Welcome to Up in the Air screening #24. If you were hoping to see this film, you’re in the right place at the right time. If you were hoping to see Avatar, that film flight of fancy has not yet been scheduled for takeoff.

Before we launch the film, we’d like to tell you now about some important issues of this film. The most important feature we have aboard this theater is the screen. Please direct your attention to it now, even though it is presently blank.

There are four exits in this theater: two up front on both sides of the screen, and two at the rear, where you came in. Please take a moment and look around and find the nearest exit. Count the rows of seats between you and the exit. In the event that the need arises to find one, trust me, you’ll be glad you did. And the need may, in fact, arise during this film — especially near the end, when you might experience the low air pressure of a huge cliché involving one of the characters who has the tables turned on him by another character and is thereby taught a “life lesson.” And he still fails to learn that lesson! If you’re seated near one of the exit rows, please keep these exit areas free of any bags or other objects, as opening the exits during the screening may create “positive pressure” for others to follow, and we do not want to create a safety hazard to others fleeing the theater.

We have pretty lights on the floor that mark the direction of the exits. These will not present a distraction for those watching the film — but to those wishing to exit, get to the restroom or stretch their legs, they will be a godsend.

In the event that you become ill from what is occurring on the screen, please use the popcorn bags that you purchased at the snack counter, or any handbag or coat pocket. You may begin to feel queasy as you relate to and sympathize with the emotional pain and anguish of the legion of average folks getting summarily fired by the main character, who logs plenty of frequent flier miles jetting around the country to perform this sorry task for gutless executives. Remember, the bags will not inflate and be able to receive your stomach contents unless you empty them of popcorn or other material. If you are sitting next to a small child, or someone acting like a small child, please use the bag first. Then you can assist the child with the emptying of their stomach contents, as they might get squeamish wondering why you brought them to this film instead of the more age-appropriate Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.

There is no smoking in this theater. There is also no smoking in the lavatories. This is the case even though this film was directed by Jason Reitman, who also happened to direct a film called Thank You for Smoking. Some of you smokers might feel an overwhelming urge to light up while this film is “in flight,” as it depicts a corporate system that is insensitive and callous to real human suffering in a strained economy — so much so that it feels like our financial leaders and bigwigs are operating at 30,000 feet. As this reminds you of the cold economic air outside the theater, your nerves will get frayed, and you will be tempted to enjoy a nicotine hit. However, if you are caught doing so, we will have to report you to the proper authorities.

Please take a moment now to make sure your seats are in their upright position and your armrests with the soda cup-holders are in their down and locked orientation. This is especially important, as we may experience some turbulence during the film flight. This unsteady air may occur when you encounter the main character’s unfortunate air of artificiality — an almost inhuman and unrealistic quality about him as he is depicted living a sterile life and (amazingly!) lives for and thrives on that most pleasant of experiences — air travel. Not only is this love of air travel foreign, but you may experience bumps when the film hits the strong and violent headwinds concerning the obvious “messages” about the nature of relationships with family, coworkers and lovers. You are likely to know about these “life lessons” way before the main character does. He also exhibits a rather cavalier attitude about a person’s death — a death that he may have helped facilitate. Even if that may be the case, we ask that you remain seated and not blurt out any guffaws during the screening. This is to ensure the safety and comfort not only of those around you, but also to keep you from being pelted with used “filmsick” bags.

In a moment, we will be moving through the theater to offer stereo headphones so that those of you who may be hard of hearing can better enjoy the film. These headphones can also filter out some offensively “stereotypical” comments made by the main character when he editorializes about the airport screening habits of certain ethnic groups. These are free, and we simply ask that you drop them on the floor at the end with all other items you wish to discard.

In the unlikely event that this screening exhibits intriguing, snappy dialogue, this will quickly pass, as you will soon be exposed to boatloads of obvious, banal rhetoric. When that occurs, your seat cushion can be used as a “sound-muffling” device. Simply put your head face down on the seat and pull up on both sides of the cushion to fold over your ears. An usher will assist you when the danger has abated.

In a moment, we will be turning off the theater lights, and it’s going to get really dark, really fast. If you’re afraid of the dark or of wincingly quirky films, now would be a good time to proceed to the exits.

We’re glad to have you with us for this showing. Thank you for choosing Up in the Air, and giving us your business and your money. If there’s anything we can do to make you more comfortable, please don’t hesitate to ask. That can include providing you a pillow to protect your head from the flogging it will get from all the obvious messages in this screening about how our economic wheelers and dealers are insensitive, crass and impersonal, and that our economy is facing rough turbulence as well.

We will do everything we can to make this a smooth and enjoyable experience. To achieve that “cruising altitude,” might we recommend that you choose instead to watch the “in-flight” movie next door? There we will be showing Princess and the Frog and, unlike this film flight, it will take your mind off the plummeting economy and “down-drafting” job market.

Now, please sit back and get ready for “takeoff.” But first, some commercials….

Doug Young is The Statesman’s award-winning film critic. He also works for Sen. Mark Udall as an environmental policy adviser.