George Clooney has come full circle in his stardom. Getting a romantic and engaging ‘time-out’ with Jennifer Lopez after she blows off a couple of traveling corporate types flirting in the lounge, his character in the latest Jason Reitman comedy, Ryan Bingham, is exactly one of those transient and boring corporate drones. Being George Clooney (particularly in a suit) he still manages to find a willing and no-strings-attached lady friend in the gorgeous and mature Vera Farmiga. But I am getting ahead of myself here, Ryan makes a living downsizing employees for corporations timid (for personal or legal reason) of doing the dirty work (involuntary severance packages). This means a lot of time on the road between auto companies and banking institutions, you know the places hit the hardest in late 2008.
Bingham has also downsized his own life, whether because of the emotional toll his job takes (albeit is is damn good at it), or for other less clear reasons, to become the self-described “wealthiest homeless man in America.” No long term relationships and little connection with his extended family, he is happy to only spend a small fraction of the year in his tiny barely adorned apartment. Instead his existence is all transience and freedom; in hotel suites, courtesy lounges and other travel-holding zones across America. All the while collecting loyalty points. Lots and lots of Loyalty points. It is not the money or the ability to travel around the world several times on his accumulated tally, it is the status of the thing. He is proud and confident to skip airport and check-in, to board and exit airports in the most efficient manner possible rewarded by his status, but also has the goal of hitting a point total that earns him a recognition only 7 other people have achieved in their lifetime (“less than have walked on the moon”) and he is well under 50.
Much like his life, his baggage is smallest of carry on bags packed efficiently with neat, anonymous suits and toiletries. Rolling smoothly along from town to town he also gives paid talks on how to be the most efficient business traveler, using an empty backpack as a metaphor for mobility and movement as a metaphor for life. Material things like a house or a car weigh you down, and relationships are the heaviest, he pontificates to the other road warriors. The philosophy he spouts in his ballroom seminars is practically a pithy and institutionalized version of Tyler Durden’s 20th century ‘freedom-from-stuff monologues’ in Fight Club. Ironic that Bingham (the shiny mirror image of ragged Durden) is often wearing that cornflower blue tie to match his pressed suits. Philosophy is so malleable these days.
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