Jason Reitman's smart and polished rom-com about a white-collar hatchet man (George Clooney) has been marinating in Oscar buzz since it premiered at the Toronto film festival; it's the sort of grandly entertaining, mildly challenging moral drama that people in the industry like to see rewarded. As a consultant for downsizing companies, Clooney's character spends ten months a year flying around the country, enjoying the good life of swank hotels and rental cars as he works his way down numbered lists telling people they've been canned. The movie opens with a montage of his unlucky targets reacting to the news, and they're heartbreaking, but for some reason we're expected to identify with Clooney, playing another of his cool-cat bachelors, and pity him when he finally figures out he's a loser. Reitman deserves credit for going through with a bitterly ironic ending, but the movie is marred by its warm condescension toward flyover country. With Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, and Jason Bateman. R, 109 min.
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Only in a year of mediocre movies would this patronizing Clooney vehicle be Oscar material.