The Men Who Stare at Goats / Up in the Air
Two George Clooney vehicles from the latter half of 2009, two more near-misses to notch on the bedpost of his disappointing career. In a Hollywood dominated by youngish and effeminate male leads, Clooney gets credit for being the rare A-lister that can play a “real man”; he just can’t seem to play a real interesting man. In The Men Who Stare at Goats, Clooney is a possibly deranged mentalist/CIA operative who takes journalist Ewan McGregor on a rabbit-hole tour of American “intelligence gathering”; after an entertaining first half, the film grows increasingly preposterous, pointless and repulsive. Some critics hailed Up in the Air, in which Clooney plays an old-school headhunter grounded by technology, as a revelatory return to “mature” American filmmaking. I thought writer-director Jason Reitman merely established himself as the poor man’s Cameron Crowe, a natural-born sophist.