This is a fantastic story of the Lover/King archetype. The metaphor of being on the top of his game, in the prime of his power with his biggest goal (sense of meaning) in life being the accumulation of 10 million travel points. Here he is at the point in life where he has mastered the Hero’s journey and faces the challenge of learning to form a realtionship with others and he fires people for a living and gives motivational talks that inspires people to avoid responsibility and connection to others.
How great is it when his world gets threatened by Ms. Keener’s idea to use the internet to fire people thus threatening his points accumulation and the busy-ness that keeps him from needing people. The frequent flyer points are a brilliant metaphor for striving for something that is ultimately empty.
But I can’t help but feeling the transformation happened offscreen or before we got there.
Three things could have made this good movie truly great.
First, when Natalie is killing his life, why does Ryan embrace helping her right at the airport, volunteering to give her the pearls of travel wisdom? Why not have her ask a bunch of annoying questions that he finally answers to show he is smarter than her? Why does Ryan inquire about Natalie’s work rather than having her sell it to him when he is a captive audience on the plane? What happened offscreen that made him start helping her?
Second, the sister tells us Ryan has been a completely neglectful brother all his life but I don’t see it. From the moment he was asked Ryan starts putting himself out to support his sister’s goofy wedding request. He kindly offers to walk his sister down the isle and I just feel bad for him when he gets shot down. If he had not bothered to take the pictures and then tried to step in as the father figure, it would have carried weight. They never let him be a schmuck onscreen before he became a good brother. I think we needed to see the importance of the pictures to the bride and groom, especially if he chose not to participate. What is the point of him participating and then getting a response of , “oh just pin them up on that neglected board over there.”
The motivational speech to talk the groom into walking down the isle lacked heart. Don’t think that would have done the job.
When Ryan decides to give the wedding couple the points it could have shown his transformation from being a shmuck (and it would have helped if we knew there was a cost to his 10 million club). This would have been a big plot point. Why didn’t we get to see him follow through?
Third is the quest for the points and his relationship with Alex. What a great irony that when Ryan finally decides to risk connecting with someone, he chooses himself with a vagina. And it doesn’t go well, which is great. But I could not stop wondering why he wouldn’t tell Alex what the point target was. Ryan told Natalie pretty quickly. Alex could have understood the value to Ryan. He could have practiced his acceptance speech to impress her. Then Ryan wouldn’t have had to say the cheesey line “do you know how many times I have imagined this moment and what I would say”?
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that these plot flaws will keep George Clooney from the Oscar podium. Too bad because it is a great theme and he is perfect for the role.