Upgraded REVIEW – Not Quite First Class

But not a bad way to spend an evening at home.


Upgraded is one of those weird rom-coms where everything but the couple at the centre of things is entertaining. The movie ends up being fairly decent, but more as a kind of ensemble comedy rather than a romantic comedy.

Ana Santos (Camila Mendes) aspires to one day open a gallery of her own, however, her life right now is the furthest thing from that dream. She’s crashing on a futon in her sister Vivian’s (Aimee Carrero) home, much to her fiancé Ronnie’s (Andrew Schulz) dismay. Ronnie’s constantly trying to get Ana to join the military, so that she won’t be there to interrupt his sex life anymore. Carrero and Schulz are hilarious together, and feel like a real life couple. Their brief moments in the film entertain so much, so it’s a shame they’re not in it much.

After Ana spots a mistake that saves the company’s reputation, her boss Claire (Marisa Tomei) bumps her up to third assistant. This means she’ll be travelling with Claire to London, though not quite in the pit of luxury. During her check-in, Ana gets upgraded to first class, due to the pity of a friendly customer service officer. It is in first class that she meets William (Archie Renaux), in a meet-cute that involves her spilling her bloody Mary drink all over his suede trousers. Thank goodness he’s an easygoing man, who only wants to flirt with Ana for the entire trip. During their conversation, he misunderstands Ana, thinking she’s the director at auction house Erwins, when she’s just a mere third assistant. What began as a harmless lie spirals as Ana finds herself in William’s orbit more and more.

Both Mendes and Renaux are beautiful people, but they don’t have that necessary spark and chemistry that rom-coms need to succeed. For most of the movie, you’ll find yourself more invested in Ana’s professional life than her personal life, which shouldn’t be the case in a romantic film. William barely gets any characterisation – he’s just there to be this good looking, rich man that any woman would desire. He coaches little league football, but there’s no sense as to why, other than to increase his attractiveness.

What’s also really distracting is Renaux’s styling in this movie. His hair, his clothes; they don’t fit the part he’s supposed to play. When he dons a tuxedo for an art exhibition, he looks like one of the waiters serving the hors d’oeuvres. I know these straight to streaming rom-coms aren’t really high budget, but if the looks in Red, White & Royal Blue are decently credible, then it shouldn’t really be an issue.

William’s mom Catherine (Lena Olin) and Catherine’s friend Julian (Anthony Head) are both a hoot. They have such great best friend energy and have more of a connection with Ana than her love interest does. Even Saoirse-Monica Jackson, who’s barely in the film, is dropping hilarious one-liners whenever she’s on screen. But of course the film’s standout performance has to go to Tomei, who manages to make her character more than just a copy of Streep’s Miranda Priestly. She’s sincere in her desire to mentor Ana, and is someone who takes her job very seriously. She’s ambitious but she’s not mean, and it’s fun to watch Tomei take on a more campy performance.

Upgraded is kind of a lesser version of The Devil Wears Prada, and isn’t really the rom-com it’s dying to be.

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What do you call a rom-com when the romance is the least interesting thing about it? Upgraded might have been better off in a different genre.