Upgraded (2024)

Upgraded Review

Upgraded (2024)

Confession time: when I saw that Upgraded was a romcom on Amazon Prime, my first thought was finally, a Camila Mendes movie where she’s not in high school. At 29, the Riverdale alum who was so game for whatever batshit curveball that show threw her and so sharp in Netflix’s romp Do Revenge is a veteran at commanding the screen as a bitchy, beautiful secret-vulnerable teen queen. Upgraded, by actor turned director Carlson Young, gives Mendes the chance to act her age or at least a scrappy third-tier assistant old enough to have a master’s degree in art history who gets in way over her head and also charms everyone around her.

Like many a teen-show-to-feature upgrade before it, Upgraded is the type of movie that would have been a mid-budget studio bet in the 2000s and now goes straight to streaming; it has an air of disposability and clear better antecedents (most obviously The Devil Wears Prada). Like Anne Hathaway’s Andi, Ana is an ambitious twentysomething in New York with limited funds and serious aspirations stuck doing unserious work for luxury. An expert on fine art, she’s in training at an upscale auction house and trying to catch a break lest she run out of money and be forced to “return to Tampa and sell paintings of boats to senior citizens”, as she puts it. She’s an unwelcome futon crasher in the one bedroom apartment shared by her sister Vivian (Aimee Carrero) and fiancé Ronnie (Andrew Schulz), two people who speak loudly and don’t understand art because working class.

This is only the first of the film’s clunky tonal swings, which range from camp (least successful) to naturalistic fantasy romance (very winsome). Written by Christine Lenig, Justin Matthews and Luke Spencer Robert, Upgraded seems at first to be going for parody of the art world, particularly in the form of Ana’s boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei), essentially an off-brand Miranda Priestly with an implacable jarring accent. (Ana’s friend Amy, Derry Girls’s Saoirse-Monica Jackson, speculates it’s a cover for being from Minnetonka.) Ana is an archetypical toxic boss once-glorified figure of low-paying prestige work that’s an ill fit in the year 2024 and a hard redemption arc to buy couture-dressed terrorizer who harasses junior staffers for minor imperfections, publicly humiliates for small mistakes, cannily pits low-ranking assistants against each other for scraps of hope.

So it goes that through a convenient mishap, Claire steamrolls Ana into a London work trip to extra-assist her Mean Barbie assistants du jour Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola) on a major auction deal. Relegated to a later flight in economy, Ana again charms upward into first class next to Will Delaroche (Archie Renaux), the dishy-to-quote-the-film’s-faux-British-tabloid son of bohemian-chic heiress Catherine (Lena Olin; striking the right note of narcissistic yet fun socialite). It’s basically the same rhythm as last year’s Netflix romcom Love at First Sight but with more work talk. Ana ingratiates herself to both Delaroches under the guise of being the youngest New York art director at the company where Catherine is planning to auction her late Russian oligarch husband’s art collection.

To fit this type of escapist entertainment for the mindless, Upgraded runs for 104 minutes but still manages to be too long, stumbling between the cartoonishly absurd art world and an actual biting flirtation in people’s lives where they drink and make fun of each other. (At least Ana swears a lot like an actual assistant.) Mendes is as good as someone who played Veronica Lodge can be at playing the “I’m your third bullied assistant” character forever, but it’s always such a relief when she leaves her office and gets to banter with Catherine or, better yet, Will, whom Renaux ably performs as if doing a platonic rich English boy with Jude Law in The Holiday cosplay.

With the romantic comedy formula ensured and some realness brought to Mendes’ and Renaux’s performances by earthiness alone, bits of laziness Ana waking up at 7:30am and going straight to the airport for an overnight flight to London; Ana showing off her preternatural knowledge right away by recognizing Renoirs and Cézannes can be skimmed over easily. Some choppiness in direction here. As far as glorifying toxic bosses in rarefied London spaces goes, Upgraded is less self-serious (and more successful) than Bradley Cooper’s 2015 haute cuisine mess Burnt. It has more pretensions than Emily in Paris while making slightly more sense than Emily in Paris. It is truly a streamlined operator of the streaming economy, only elevated above mediocrity by Mendes still being so underrated even though she’s never not fully given herself over to every role hopefully she upgrades to better adult roles much sooner rather than later!

Watch Upgraded For Free On Gomovies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top