Last night I watched George Clooney’s movie, “Up In The Air”. Comparing the modern morals of this film to the yardstick of biblical morality… is like comparing the latest Ferrari with an ox cart.
This depressing film with numerous heart-rending scenes of people being fired presents a sleek modern Ferrari of morality. Postmodern and post Christian morality; human “freedom”; The only rule in “Air” is that there are no rules. It’s the story of a high flying businessman (Clooney) whose job is firing people on behalf of bosses too afraid to do so. Eventually, Clooney, who has no attachments with anyone and for whom “home” is a DC-10, meets another high-flyer, Vera Farmiga. A steamy relationship ensues which consists of meshing their schedules and meeting in hotels in various cities.
In a sub-plot, Clooney is travelling with an ambitious young co-worker (Anna Kendrick). He is showing her the ropes of how to fire people. For Clooney it’s a job. He tells her, “We come along side them in their moment of despair and cut them adrift.” At this unlikely point, old-fashioned ox cart morality kicks in. Kendrick is deeply affected at seeing people’s lives shattered by termination. Nameless people become real to her. One terminated African American man, whose face twitches with emotion as he talks about his despair, is especially poignant. Eventually, after a woman commits suicide, Kendrick realizes she can’t work in a job that shatters lives. She quits. Her response is the biblical moral highlight. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” 1
The Ferrari parts include Clooney and Farmiga comparing stories of having sex on airplanes “in the day.” The casual nature of jumping into bed together, with no strings attached. Afterwards, their shock at the suggestion that they are dating. Any suggestion of commitment beyond raw sex is uncomfortable. One morning after another night in a hotel, Clooney and Farmiga admit to one another, “I like you.” Wow… how risqué!
Is this a Ferrari, or a cart in front of an ox?
My biggest beef with the sports car morality of “Up In the Air” is that it seems okay to hide real life in order to pursue personal desires. Toward the end, one character is exposed as having lived out a lie. What kind of a parent, spouse, or an executive could one be if leading a double life? Wasn’t that the issue with Tiger Woods? Am I being too Victorian? To its credit, the film does paint the coverup in a bad light. But it also pointedly does not introduce you to any person that Clooney or Farmiga would have commitments to. We don’t want to complicate the racy plot with any expectations or commitments of the ox cart variety.
“Up In The Air”… Sex with no strings attached… an uncaring corporate world… hopeless people without jobs. Predictably sad ending. Ferrari morality doesn’t work, even in fiction! Or was it fiction?