|by Amy Chen||Pop Culture and Travel, Frequent Flier Miles||8|
George Clooney's latest movie, "Up in the Air," opens Friday in a dozen cities before a nationwide release on Christmas Day.
Armed with his usual charisma, Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a layoff specialist who travels a staggering 322 days a year. He has perfected the art of packing a carry-on bag, getting through airport security, and collecting membership points from companies like American Airlines, Hertz, and Hilton—all to benefit his goal of hitting 10 million frequent-flier miles.
Throughout the movie, Clooney's character flashes fistfuls of loyalty cards and reaps the rewards (expedited check-in, airline lounge access, first-class seats, etc.…). His plastic card collection includes a Hilton HHonors Diamond VIP-level membership, which anyone can earn after staying 60 nights a year.
Moments after Clooney meets Alex, the woman of his dreams played by Vera Farmiga, they flirt by pulling out their membership cards and comparing miles, points, and other status milestones.
"We're two people who get turned on by cheap loyalty cards," Alex later comments.
"There's nothing cheap about loyalty," Clooney says.
Here at Budget Travel, we've long said you should join free rewards programs, but now do you believe us? George has spoken.
That said, don't be fooled into thinking that the movie is a pure romantic comedy. It definitely is not. I watched a special advance screening of the movie last night, and there was nothing funny about how Clooney's character "downsizes" employees. Apparently the "actors" are real people who were recently laid off. Whenever they speak, you can tell they're reliving the moment they were told to pack up. It's heavy stuff, even for George Clooney to handle.
FUN MOVIE TRIVIA
Hilton came on board as a marketing partner after learning that location scouts were scoping out the St. Louis Airport hotel. In several scenes, Clooney wears nothing but a white Hilton bathrobe (hiltontohome.com, $80).
Says Andrew Flack, Hilton Hotels' vice president of global brand marketing. "We liked what the movie was doing. Many life-changing things happen on journeys. And back in 1959, Hilton invented the airport-hotel concept."
Many scenes were filmed in the rooms and public areas at the Hilton St. Louis Airport (rooms from $129), Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark (from $159), and Hilton Miami Airport (from $139) hotels. Clooney not included.