Up in the Air: Movie versus novel

Brittany Johnson

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In corner number one, weighing in at 303 pages and written by Walter Kirn, welcome: “Up in the Air”, the novel; and in corner number two, weighing in at 109 minutes and directed by Jason Reitman, give it up for: “Up in the Air”, the movie.

“Up in the Air” describes the “Airworld” of Ryan Bingham-a middle aged man who spends more than 300 days on the road, traveling from business to business aiding in career transitions. He experiences the trials and tribulations of life, all while striving to earn a sky high amount of frequent flyer miles.

In 2001, Kirn wrote the novel based on his own line of work and its travel demands. Then, Reitman transformed it into a major motion picture starring George Clooney in 2009.

The first-person narrative novel focuses on Bingham’s life in the sky dealing with a potential career transition with a secretive corporation and hustling to sell his business allegory book. The flights keep multiplying, but traveling alongside Bingham develops a relationship with the character and you learn his strengths and weaknesses. Each flight he meets someone new and reveals bits and pieces of his life, striving to achieve the one-millionth frequent flyer mile.

Kirn’s details paint such a vivid picture for the reader. However, because the main character faces a busy schedule, events and interactions are often quick and vague. This is the perfect read for traveling because you can jump in and out of the story easily. Plus, the hustle and bustle of your life will set the tone for the book.

Kirn’s ideas were manipulated constantly for the film.
Reitman had to take the story and create a movie everyone would be able to enjoy. Sub-plots were changed and this created a smoother and easily relatable story for everyone.

The job of Bingham (Clooney) is the same: traveling from city to city letting people go. Bingham is easily transformed into a likeable character with the help of Clooney’s charm. He is no longer writing a business allegory, but aspiring to be a motivational speaker. He brings a co-worker along to experience the heartache the job carries and you take a virtual trip around the US to experience some of our busiest airports.

According to the LA Times, Reitman casted recently laid-off employees to express legitimate emotions to the camera. This added drama to the movie and relatabilty for the viewer.
The movie is more about Bingham keeping his way of life on the road. He enjoys the travels and is anxious to earn 10 million frequent flier miles.

The characters are different, stories are different, and the adventures in each city are different. To pick a winner in this battle is impossible because the two are so different. Take the challenge yourself, and see what version you prefer.

Overall, “Up in the Air” is filled with love, heartache, drama, and laughter. It is an easy read for the weekend and a great movie for all to enjoy.

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