I took time out this week to see a couple of movies. What a contrast !
One was a derivative shmaltz fest, the other a nuanced exploration of modern love and business morals.
While one is mass market and from the director of Pretty Woman and the other is verging on the art house, I don’t see why movie making for a big audience should lower the quality by so much.
Valentine’s Day has multiple story lines and takes place over a single day in LA, much like Robert Altman’s excellent Short Cuts. There are nods to that film but the magic fails to rub off. Many stories doesn’t make it complex.
Up in the Air on the other hand sticks to a more linear story-line but is full of complexity. The George Clooney character runs away from love and meaningful human relationships choosing to spend his time in airplanes.
Yet he knows that his work , which is basically flying in to offices to fire the staff, requires humanity. When they try to replace him with a computer he fights for the right to be there in person.
Clooney finally experiences an epiphany about his personal life only to find that it’s too late.
Love in all its complexity is right there in this movie, although this is no romance, rather a hard-edged look at the real America. Not the America of flower shops and candy but corporate America with its grey office spaces, business conferences and threat of unemployment.
Sorry to have such a downer on all that pink candyfloss but at it’s centre Valentine’s day lacked an essential ingredient that Up in the Air possessed, heart.