An overworked and underpaid assistant has a lie told to a stranger escalate to the extreme in Carlson Young’s Upgraded.
Who among us hasn’t lied to a stranger about aspects of your life to seem more successful than you actually are? There’s something enticing about telling a consequence fee fib to someone you’ll never see again and pretending to be someone else briefly. Usually, reality is returned to once the interaction ends with no follow-up but for Ana (Camila Mendes) it results in her being mired in a complex negotiation between the owner of an art collection and the auction house handling the sale of said collection.
Upgraded is a Cinderella story. Ana is a down-on-her-luck assistant at an auction house with a passion for art and dreams of becoming a big player in the art world. Several things hold her back from her dreams such as her boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei), who only notices her when she has a stain on her blouse and her mean girl co-workers exploiting the authority they have over her to belittle her while impeding any possible career progress. She is also an unwelcome guest in her sister and fiancé’s apartment with the looming threat of going back home in disgrace after having failed to achieve her dreams.,
Ana’s luck changes when she notices a typo on a brochure and she is recognised as doing the bare minimum expected of her. Her competence nets her a trip to London to assist with an upcoming auction and a friendly gesture at the airport check-in desk sees her upgraded to first class on her flight. From here she meets William (Archie Renaux), a charming Brit with connections in high places who mistakes her for the director of the auction house and the story progresses from there.
Nothing about this film could be considered original. It plays out along expected lines and rarely, if ever, surprises along the way. There’s a notable lack of stakes at any point as problems are presented and neatly resolved without any fanfare. The escalation of Ana’s lie should be a constant source of tension as she walks the tightrope between maintaining the fiction and carrying out her actual duties. There are a couple of brief moments where it looks as if Ana will have to carefully navigate a situation but they never amount to anything. There’s a real missed opportunity to show Ana’a resourcefulness in keeping everyone convinced that there’s nothing suspicious going on.
Another missed opportunity is that Upgraded fails to say anything about the difficulties women have ascending to positions of power when their ability is far greater than that of their male counterparts. There’s a mostly deleted subplot involving Claire angling for a job and pulling out all the stops to impress when a male candidate seems more likely to step into the role without doing anything to deserve it so it’s something that’s on the movie’s radar but it never commits to exploring this concept. All the ingredients were there to cover it through Ana’s desire to rise through the ranks and what she observes of Claire’s attempts, particularly after seeing her as an untouchable authority figure.
Despite its shortcomings, Upgraded is a very charming watch thanks in no small part to Camila Mendes. She almost immediately convinces the audience that Ana is a likeable character that they can root for. A script with more teeth would have allowed the character to shine more as she navigates the situation she unwittingly created but Mendes has charisma in spades and effortlessly carries the film. Her chemistry with Archie Renaux pops and the film is at its best when it develops their connection from their meet-cute after Ana spills a drink on William’s expensive clothes to the conclusion. Ana’s relationship with William’s mother, Catherine (Lena Olin) is another highlight and any scene they share is a delight. Anthony Head also charms and clearly has a lot of fun with his role. There is definitely a better film to be made with the ingredients Upgraded has but it’s far from a waste of time and sometimes makes great use of what it does have.
An entertaining watch effortlessly carried by Camila Mendes endlessly charming and charismatic performance that could make better use of its ingredients.
- Camilla Mendes effortlessly leading the film
- excellent chemistry between her and Archie Renaux
- any scene between Camila Mendes and Lena Olin
- Anthony Head clearly enjoying his role
- strong characterisation
- the lack of stakes
- a failure to properly explore Ana walking a tightrope between maintaining her fiction and carrying out her actual duties
- missed opportunities to say something about women in the workplace
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you want to discuss. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter , BlueSky and Discord or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box.
If you want to chat with me directly, I’m also on Twitter