https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTL1FmvVCuA This 2009 flick is one of those movies I really wanted to see when it first came out, and then I sort of forgot about it entirely, but over the weekend watched and LOVED. L-O-V-E loved. It stars George Clooney and Anna Kendrick, which meant I expected to really like it for those reasons alone, but I didn't anticipate the storyline to be so thoughtful, intelligent and unique.
As you'll see from the trailer, Clooney plays Ryan, a man who avoids commitment in all its aspects and spends his time in airports and on planes, traveling to help companies downsize. He is the guy who delivers the bad news, and then becomes the bad guy to the laid off employee so that higher ups don't have to mess with it. And he likes his job. He likes the rewards perks, the freedoms, the obscurity, and most of the all, the fact that he isn't tied to anything, anyplace or anybody.
Ryan's smooth way of life is interrupted by Natalie (Kendrick), a fresh-faced college grad who has convinced Ryan's boss that digital technology in terms of firing is the way of the future. To save company time and money, she proposes that all firing meetings occur via screen, and Ryan obviously protests, primarily because he doesn't think it will work out well and because it threatens his position.
To mediate, Ryan's boss (played by Jason Bateman, whose acting is fine but I can never believe that he is anyone except Michael Bluth) sends both Natalie and Ryan on a joint trip, so that Natalie can see what the firing process is really like, and Ryan can ease into the idea of doing things differently in the future.
The chemistry of these two on-screen is unique in that they are neither potential love interests nor complete foils to one another. Natalie is clearly a type-A personality who wants to excel at her career and gain a husband and/or love along the way, someone is struggling to find herself; Ryan thinks he knows what he wants and who he is, who happens to be extremely good at his work but also doesn't care to venture outside his comfort zone very much.
Along the way, Natalie challenges Ryan's attitude of detachment, while Ryan exemplifies how sometimes the "old" way of doing things is actually better. In one poignant scene (not a spoiler), Natalie admonishes a tearful man who has just lost his job through a virtual interview, and you can see her face contract with the effort of not caring, of not feeling anything for this stranger, while Ryan looks on, knowing she is technically doing a "good job," but that compassion, too, is part of delivering bad news.
There's a powerful speech that Ryan gives, spread out in the film, which shows his perspective on life in full:
As you may have guessed, Ryan learns some things by the end of the movie, mostly through his so-called relationship with a frequent flyer named Alex (a partnership that takes a few surprise twists and turns for usual movie fare) and during his younger sister's wedding. These aren't unusual lessons, but the movie doesn't wrap anything up in a neat little bow. You don't know exactly how the paths of Ryan and Natalie will unfold, and more than anything, their characters represent a very common happening in life: when two strangers meet, learn something from one another, change a little bit (or not) and move on.