Breakups. They happen to us all. The sad part is no matter how significant or meaningful the relationship was, the way people break up with each other is usually ugly. Words are tossed around without any thought. Unfortunately, those who get their hearts broken spend countless days deciphering those same words. Trying to find greater meaning in 'It's not you, it's me'.
And this is exactly why I love this breakup scene from Up in the Air. The director Jason Reitman shows two ‘adults’ in a romantic situation and how it comes to a close in an ‘adult’ manner.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a cold-blooded bastard. He joyfully fires people for a living and with recession looming in the background, his business is booming. He flies a lot and ends up meeting Alex Goran (Vera Farminga). She is just like him. She tells him to think of herself as a ‘female version’ of him. Notice how the director gives her a traditionally ‘male’ name. Alex is not your traditional enabler female archetype.
At the end of the movie, Ryan realizes that his life is empty and meaningless. So he rushes to meet Alex. To declare his love for her. To his surprise, he finds Alex is married. With kids. And is even seemingly happy. He is crushed. So when she finally calls him back, you expect an apology. But this is a Jason Reitman movie. What you see instead is an explanation.
We see how Alex is indeed Ryan’s counterpart. She parrots an explanation Ryan could have given someone a few weeks back. As she puts, ‘I thought we signed up for the same thing... I thought our relationship was perfectly clear. You are an escape. You're a break from our normal lives. You're a parenthesis.’
Cold but clear. Heartless without meaning harm. Besides, I’m sure Ryan would be broken by the ‘parenthesis’ remark but at least she gave him a meaningful answer. It’s the kind of honest breakup we all should aspire to.