Hollywood hunk George Clooney learns to regret his independence as Oscar-nominated Canadian director Jason Reitman s comedy Up in the Air screened at the Rome film festival this week.
Clooney s character Ryan Bingham clocks millions of air miles flying around the United States coolly firing people for companies that are downsizing in the movie based on a novel by Walter Kirn.
The job seems a perfect match for a man who revels in his independence, and he finds a kindred spirit in Alex (Vera Farmiga), whose work also takes her away from home most of the time.
Think of me as someone just like you, only with a vagina, she assures Ryan in the film, one of 14 vying for the Marc Aurelio award at the festival s fourth edition, which runs through next Friday.
Things start to unravel when Ryan uses the L word – well, almost: I like you, he tells her – and tries to tinker with their arrangement.
Not many characters come to an epiphany about companionship through loss rather than romance, said Reitman, whose Juno about a pregnant teenager won the top prize here in 2007.
It s a movie about individualism (which offers) an opportunity to be disconnected, he said. With a character such as Ryan, in fact you re not everywhere, you re nowhere.
The unmarried Clooney, the subject of widespread speculation about his love life, insisted he was nothing like his character. I have a pretty great life, great friends, people I m close to… I don t find myself often alone.
Clooney, 48, turned up at the Venice film festival last month with new girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis, an Italian former showgirl and television presenter.
Also Saturday, Dima El-Horr unveiled Every Day Is a Holiday, a sort of road trip in war-scarred Lebanon.
We live in such a tormented country, an absurd country, El-Horr said. We have the feeling that reality is always mingled with fantasy.
The film takes place on Lebanon s Independence Day, when three women meet on a bus heading to visit their partners in a prison in a remote part of the country.
Melding reality with fantasy, it becomes a metaphor for the women s private quests for independence.
The jury led by US director Milos Forman ( Amadeus ) includes Algerian novelist Assia Djebar, Austrian actress Senta Berger, Italian director Gabriele Muccino and Russian filmmaker Pavel Lounguine.
The audience also gets a vote to decide the feature worthy of the public s award.
The festival was created in 2005 by then Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, aiming to make it a major draw on the international cinema calendar.
But this year – the second year under Veltroni s right-wing successor Gianni Alemanno – the event is a day shorter, with 14 films in competition compared with 20 in 2008 and the budget slashed to ?12 million ($17.5 million) compared with 15.5 million last year.