Up in the Air

We went to see “Up in the Air” tonight.

George Clooney is still hot. But the story? Not so much.  (***SPOILER ALERT***)

There’s a scene where George Clooney’s character is called on to counsel his sister’s groom-to-be, who’s suffering from cold feet at his wedding. Clooney’s character is hardly the person you’d pick for the job; he’s a commit-phobic bachelor who flees from every hint of interpersonal involvement (probably type-casting, hmm?). It seemed obvious to me that this was the moment for his epiphany — the “aha” moment that would make him change and grow.

Epiphanies are a huge factor in making a book worth reading or a story worth telling. You want a moment at the end of your book when the reader sighs with satisfaction as the character comes to a life-changing realization. This is it, I figured. Old George is about to figure out what really matters.

The groom is hiding out in a schoolroom, sitting in a child-sized chair. When George Clooney walks in, he’s holding a copy of “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

“Strong stuff,” George says.

And I thought, “yesssss!”

I love that story, and I sat up straighter in my chair, waiting for the book to strike home the epiphany that both George and the groom needed. The groom said he was afraid to get married; you get married, he said, have a kid, have another kid, grow old, lose your hair and die — and what’s the point?

So there’s George. And there’s the book. He knows the story — he said so — and it’s sitting right there in front of him. And maybe the filmmaker was trying to be subtle, but why the heck didn’t he use the story to make the point that you grow old and die anyway, and at least, when you have the love of your family, you become “real” and it’s all worthwhile? You’re battered and old and falling apart, but you’re loved — and that’s what really matters.

Nope. George just mentioned that all those thoughts and fears hit the groom when he was sleeping alone, and told him life was better when you’re not by yourself. Ba-dump-bump! That was it.

It just didn’t have a whole lot of resonance. And the ending followed suit. Things don’t go well for George, and he’s pretty much the same guy at the end that he was at the beginning — only at the end, he realizes how pathetic he is, so he’s no longer a happy-go-lucky bachelor. He’s a lonely, miserable single guy instead.

Does becoming self-aware qualify as change when you don’t do anything about the flaws you see in yourself? When it’s clear you’re just going to keep on keepin’ on, racking up the frequent flier miles? I don’t think so.