BIFF Film Review: Somebody Up There Likes Me

   I was lucky enough to catch this, the UK Premier screening, of Somebody Up There Likes Me at the 19th annual Bradford International Film Festival. In the following post I give my thoughts and explain why film festivals are a lot like speed dating (aside from being sat down in a darkened room surrounded by middle aged men):





   Film festivals are, in many ways, the cinephile equivalent of speed-dating: scores of faces bundled into a small time and space, some of whom will delight and enchant you, others who you can't wait to see the back of, and, the final group, there are those who you are surprised to see in attendance. Somebody Up There Likes Me falls into the latter of these categories with a face I hadn't expected to see: the stoic features of Nick Offerman (the inimitable Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation).

   The twee comedy sees Offerman play Sal, the best friend of the film's protagonist Max (Keith Poulson). The duo both adore the same woman Lyla (Jess Wexler from Teeth) and Bob Byington's film, which has been described as a "mix between Wes Anderson and Todd Solondz", shows them struggling with terminal illness, premature death, failed marriages, the collapse of family and the banality of life over the course of three decades. It isn't, in comparison to the industry standards, the usual approach to a comedic film. And if the above premise doesn't sound like fertile ground for hilarity then the resulting feature reflects this too.

   Feeling infinitely longer than the film's sub-80 minute running time, Somebody Up There Likes Me is in fact a movie that answers existential questions and proves perhaps there is no deity looking over mankind at all and, if there is, He certainly has no collective fondness for us. A forgiving and compassionate God would  have surely intervened in creating a movie like this; one which eschews the standard tropes of comedy replacing jokes or sequences designed to inspire laughter with elderly women wearing sunglasses instead and a lead character who's defining feature is that she eats bread sticks. At one point during the screening a courageous member of the audience released, in Braveheart-esque defiance, a loud "NO!" at another contrived piece of bizarre characterisation in lieu of real humour: it was a noise which I really think encapsulated the deflated feeling this movie inspired in my heart.

   In much of horror cinema today, lazy film-makers have got into their mind that making loud noises is enough to make a movie others will consider scary. Such thinking has filtered over into American indie comedy where, inspired by the success of much more nuanced and talented film-makers, various individuals have begun to assume humour and acclaim will arise simply by making idiosyncratic characters (who are completely dissimilar to real people) with "wacky" traits. This, as proven here, is not true.

   In short, Somebody Up There Likes Me is unfunny, badly made (large portions of the film are out of focus or over-exposed), unprofessional and pointless in the grand scheme of things - there was no character i felt i should care about, no purpose or moral in their tales. Referring back to the speed dating analogy: catching up with Nick Offerman may have been a good idea in principle but it was deflating to see the company he keeps.

* This film was shown as part of Bradford International Film Festival and you can, if you so choose, Like the feature on Facebook here.
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