Wednesday 28 February 2024

Prime Time: Upgraded (2024)

A misunderstanding that leads to someone trying to maintain an unrealistic image of their life, a number of coincidences making everything more complicated on the way, and one or two supporting characters doing their best to trip up our lead. Yes, we’re firmly in rom-com territory with Upgraded, a film that I saw someone else cannily sum up as a standard rom-com mixed with more than a hint of The Devil Wears Prada

Camila Mendes plays Ana, a young intern struggling to make the right impression in front of her boss, a hard taskmaster named Claire (Marisa Tomei). While heading to the UK to close a deal that will gain them a hefty commission, they are in the business of evaluating and auctioning art, Ana is mistreated at the airport so appallingly that she is upgraded to first class by a kind ticket agent. It is in this unfamiliar environment that Ana meets Will (Archie Renaux), getting on so well that she is befriended by his mother (Catherine, played by Lena Olin). Which is all well and good, until she starts to develop a busy social life that might create a clash with her work duties.

Writers Christine Lenig, Justin Matthews, and Luke Spencer Robert’s don’t have the most extensive filmographies, but it quickly becomes clear that each member of the team knows the formula needed at the heart of this film. There are some quirky supporting characters and some surprisingly funny lines of dialogue in the first half of the movie, but we all know where it needs to end up. The truth needs to come out, and at least one big romantic gesture is always welcome.

Director Carlson Young has a similarly small body of work, certainly in her directing role, but has been acting, mainly in TV shows, for a number of years. She is arguably best known for her role in the Scream TV series, where she played Brooke Maddox, but the skill and polish on display here bodes well for her future as a helmer of slick popular entertainment.

Mendes is perfectly fine in the lead role, and Renaux pairs up well enough with her. The two of them are as cute and safe as expected, but they actually feel like they have chemistry as their meet-cute turns into something more. Tomei has a lot of fun being the super-mean and super-demanding boss, Olin also seems to enjoy being a quirky and loving socialite/ex-model/actress, joined at times by a carefree and spirited artist (played by Anthony Head), and two “mean girls” are played well by Rachel Matthews and Fola Evans-Akingbola. There are also enjoyable supporting turns from Andrew Schulz, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, and Thomas Kretschmann.

Easy to enjoy, as long as you’re in the mood for this kind of thing, this is the kind of film that should manage to force a smile out of even the most resistant of viewers. You get a good mix of characters, the cast all seem to be enjoying themselves immensely, and the third act delivers one or two very satisfying moments. It’s not sophisticated, it’s far from perfect (I have already forgotten any of the score/soundtrack, for example), but it’s a bloody good time while it’s on.


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