Filmmakers had to get creative during the early days of the Coronavirus quarantine. While some filmmakers have utilized that unique time to develop interesting ideas, Cecilia Miniucchi’s Life Upside Down misses the mark. While it certainly tackles lockdown-related anxieties, the tedious merry-go-round of these characters is unfulfilling and unexciting.
In Los Angeles during the initial lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of friends deals with their own struggles of isolation. Jonathan Wigglesworth (Bob Odenkirk) is struggling to keep his art gallery alive while juggling an affair with Clarissa Cranes (Radha Mitchell). Clarissa can’t deal with the seclusion of loneliness.
Meanwhile, Clarissa’s writer friend Paul Hasselberg (Danny Huston) is happy in isolation with his wife Rita (Rosie Fellner), but an uneasy feeling begins to worry him in his relationship. Jonathan’s worries are compounded when Paul hesitates buying a painting which would keep his gallery afloat.
Obviously, being stuck inside with only those in your immediate vicinity is a different atmosphere than what these characters are used to. Unfortunately, the narrative just has the actors doing relatively the same thing scene after scene. Jonathan is worried about his gallery and attempts to contact Clarissa. Clarissa is bored and wants to see Jonathan. Paul is trying to write while Rita goes on a run. These scenes are repeated ad nauseum until the last 15 minutes of the film.
The finale, where things actually happen, is such a welcome surprise that you wonder what the point of the last 75 minutes was. There is no character development until that point. They are the same people they started the film as, just in an unprecedented situation.
Mitchell is the only cast member who puts in impressive work. Half the time, she is bored and lost in thought. She does a superb job of spinning in her head without saying a word. Odenkirk does what he can, but his character is extremely unlikeable. Even if you are cheering for Jonathan’s relationship with Clarissa, he is doing a poor job convincing you he cares for either of the women in his life.
Huston and Fellner have real chemistry (they are a real life couple), which lends credence to their struggles. But, just as the problem with the film as a whole shows, there is such little development. He is happy, she obviously is not, and they are unaware of each other’s feelings until far to late in the film for it to matter.
The film was put together by Miniucchi, but each shot is on a phone or tablet placed by the actors in their (presumed) actual homes. The effort is comendable, but unfortunately, the execution just isn’t there.
Some viewers might connect to the nostalgic memory of being stuck in your homes, but Life Upside Down is a repetitive film about the anxiety of selfish characters. For a film this “light,” it isn’t exactly pleasant.
Life Upside Down is now playing in select theaters and streams on-demand on February 3rd
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