I saw this movie on its first release in a movie theater. (Remember those? I write in summer, 2020.) I recalled enough of the basic story to give it a second watch. I'm glad I did. It's a richer movie than I remembered. The cast, from leads to supporting players, are uniformly superb: from top to bottom the characters are three-dimensional human beings, not pasteboard cutouts as in so many Hollywood flicks. About the plot you'll learn more than enough from other reviews on this board.
The thing most worth noting, I think: this is a serious drama leavened with just enough good humor to make it watchable.
From the marginal "trivia board" I learned something not at all trivial: director Jason Reitman filmed civilians—non-actors, but real people of different ages, genders, races—who talked before the camera about their experiences of being fired. Inserted at the beginning and later in the film, these vignettes give "Up in the Air" real bite. This is not a slick movie that feeds off people's pain as a story premise: it comes clean with the reality of losing one's livelihood. Carefully edited, the moviegoer has the impression that the civilians are talking across the table to the characters played by George Clooney and Anna Kendrick. Not so: Reitman dignified these people, refused to manipulate their experiences for the sake of cinematic fiction—and he was rightly afraid that the anger and grief expressed would unnerve Clooney and Kendrick. That raises an interesting question: Who's the civilian? Who's the professional? Except for a handful of marquee stars, like Clooney, the vast majority of working actors can't find work. For those who somehow carve a career out of tons of rejection and phones that don't ring, the next week or month or year of being "at liberty"—the old stage term for being unemployed—is a hard reality.
There are many other layers in this movie that make it worth seeing. The tensions and rewards that emerge among professionals across a generational divide. The stories we tell ourselves to make a meaningful life that is shiny but shallow. The fear of commitment. The pain of rejection. Moments of bliss. Rewards from those we thought had dismissed us. Feelings of betrayal by those who haven't a clue they would be thought traitors. The loss of human empathy in an increasingly technologized world. Convincing skeptics of the need for commitment until the convincers believe it themselves. None of these is dropped like an anvil on our heads while watching. Instead, they are more like tiny grenades, planted into the movie's terrain, hardly noticed until they go off.
That's what makes "Up in the Air" worth watching. At surface level it's a romantic comedy, but the currents bubbling beneath are deep, adult, and real.