Upgraded movie review: Camila Mendes leads this spirited yet formulaic romantic comedy
Upgraded movie review: Marisa Tomei's deliciously campy performance as the evil boss might be a long lost twin to Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada.
Upgraded movie review: A rags to riches tale where the central relationship rests on a white lie? We all know where this is going. There's no denying that a romantic comedy for this age can be a tricky affair. However, Prime Video's latest offering, Upgraded, overcomes the straightforward rom-com narrative tropes and leaps forward with confidence and charm. It is one of those rare movies that gets the context of its protagonist without losing touch of their priorities. Perhaps an updated The Devil Wears Prada, where the boyfriend is not the biggest enemy. A winning upgrade, for sure. (Also read: Bhakshak movie review: Bhumi Pednekar plays a fearless journalist in riveting crime drama with hard-hitting storytelling)
Riverdale alum Camila Mendes gives a confident performance as Anna Santos, a struggling art curator who works for the New York branch of a prestigious auction house. She's broke, and on the edge, living with her sister Vivian (Aimee Carrero) and her brother-in-law Ronnie (Andrew Schulz). At work, there's Claire Dupont (a deliciously campy performance from Marisa Tomei), who examines each and everyone from head to toe in order to spot a shred of dirt on her assistants. She's not here to be nice, neither does she want to be.
When Anna spots a mistake in the auction catalog at the very last minute, Claire upgrades her to becoming a third assistant. That would mean she has to follow her to London for an emergency work trip. The first two assistants assistants Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola) are there to make her suffer more. Yet, luck is in Anna's favour as she gets an 'upgraded' ticket by a considerate agent and gets the handsome William (Archie Renaux) as her seatmate. They click instantly, while Anna offers a white lie that she is in Claire's position, as a director of Erwin’s New York office. In London, she meets William's mother Catherine (Lena Olin), who is herself linked to the art world. From there on, it is Anna's choice, and her balance between maintaining her double life which goes on a ride.
The Cindrella-esque journey, that Upgraded embarks on, works because of the smart and confident screenplay by Christine Lenig, Justin Matthews and Luke Spencer Roberts. The writing is sharp and observant, acutely balancing the many loose threads towards the second half. Although the predictable jump towards the end feels a little too safe in comparison, Upgraded never loses its momentum until that minute.
Yet, the biggest catch point of Upgraded is how cleverly it prioritises the professional space of Anna over her romance. Although Mendes and Renaux have instantly likeable chemistry in the film that is billed as a rom-com, Upgraded is more about Anna's dynamic with Claire, or even with William's mother to a degree. Anna's agency is the crux of the story, and Mendes builds her step by step, with sufficient charm and spirit.
Upgraded is bitingly sharp and entertaining, and most importantly, one that knows what it wants to say. Ana makes mistakes, but director Carlson Young makes sure she's not harshly judged or punished for her choices. She can utilise those same strategies to regain her ground. The real upgrade is in realising one's self worth, more than anything else.