Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Let’s Review Somebody Up There Likes Me!

As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.

Hanging with all the losers he's outlived.

Hanging with all the losers he's outlived.

In his office, Jeff opens a suitcase and peers into the warm, mysterious glow that emanates from within. He slams it shut when Jeremiah enters.

Jeremiah White:  Doing a Pulp Fiction bit, huh?

Jeff Hart:  A what? Never heard of it.

Jeremiah White:  Oh, okay. Doing a Somebody Up There Likes Me bit, huh?

Jeff Hart:  Nope! This is my portable tanning machine. It keeps me young and totally isn’t radioactive! I’m gonna take this mother fucker on Shark Tank and sell it to Mark Cuban.

Jeremiah White:  Now that’s comedy. Or is it anti-comedy? I can never tell with these indie things.

Jeff Hart:  Well, Somebody Up There is often funny in its weird way. And how could it not be? Nick Offerman’s butt, ya’ll! It’s also often arch and esoteric, with characters too odd to really sympathize with, and a theme that never quite clicks. The film follows Max (Keith Poulson) and his friends (well, his one friend, Offerman), lovers, and children through 35 years over which Max never ages thanks to the glowing light of a magical suitcase. Is that a spoiler?

Jeremiah White:  I don’t know. I’ve seen other reviews reference it as a consistent plot point, but I didn’t really get that Max had a magical suitcase until the very end. I thought it was all a metaphor. Or something.

Jeff Hart:  Or something, indeed. Part of the reason I don’t think the magical suitcase bit sunk in for me is that the people around Max don’t really age that much either, especially considering the film spans 35 years of their lives. I’m willing to give director Bob Byington and his crew a break there, this being an indie cheapie and all. They’re not going to be coming with the Benjamin Button make-up effects. But they don’t really act any older, either.

Jeremiah White:  Isn’t that the theme you’re talking about? How life passes us by, or how we don’t really grow up.

Jeff Hart:  Sure, yeah, although I don’t know that it’s effective. It’s all very surreal and sometimes I’m not sure if that’s intentional or just lazy. There are some sci-fi elements thrown in late that I really enjoyed, but otherwise the whole 35 year journey seems a long way to go to show that people don’t really change and that life passes us by. It’s only 75 minutes, too, which doesn’t give this laconic film much time to dig into anything too deep. And that might be a mercy.

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