Ah yes, it’s time for another edition of “Comfort Food Cinema.” This is a term that I will be using from here on out to refer to films that give you exactly what you expect, no more no less, and that despite their predictable nature, offer comfort in these unpredictable times. Like a dinner consisting of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas, these movies are nothing spectacular – unless you’re eating my wife’s meatloaf – but are just good enough to satisfy your needs and maybe offer a bit of solace after a crappy day.
These sorts of movies were the bread-and-butter of the studios during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the period throughout the 1930’s to the end of World War II, in which the dream factories churned out a steady stream of escapist entertainment of the widest variety. For the masses coping with the Great Depression, these films were a vital lifeline in believing that something better was out there for all of them and that times, were in fact, not as bad as they thought.
These movies have never left us, and it could be argued that the rom-com genre is where product of this sort pops up with the most frequency. A pretty good example of this is Carlson Young’s “Upgraded,” a light-as-a-feather, by-the-numbers bit of fluff that delivers exactly what you expect – a charming young couple attempt to navigate the ways of love, a series of mix-ups complicate things and a collection of characters pop up just when the movie needs a bit of a boost.
Our heroine is Ana (Camila Mendes), a plucky art history major who longs to own her own auction house. Seems like a modest enough dream, yet it does come with its complications. Apparently this industry is a cut-throat one and breaking in as tough as opening a tin can with a plastic fork. Her harridan of a boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei, employing an awful accent), treats all her employees like trash, but after Ana saves her from embarrassment at a very important auction, she finds herself on a plane to London, to help her with a career making deal.
After being relegated to coach on the transatlantic flight by Claire’s wicked stepsister-like assistants, a fairy godmother-ish ticket agent upgrades her to first class where, you guessed it, she meets her prince charming in the form of William (Archie Renaux). (Sorry for all the fairy tale allusions, but it is what it is…) Actually, they ran into each other earlier during the requisite “meet cute” moment when she spilled a Bloody Mary all over him. Of course, this provides a nice talking point for them so they can get on with all the falling in love business.
Complications ensue on the road to love and I’m not going to get into specifics here. Just know that Lena Olin as William’s former movie star mother and Anthony Head as an eccentric painter, pretending he’s dead, add the proper sort of whimsy to the proceedings to help it pleasantly move along its predictable path. As for Mendes and Renaux, you like them and, as a result, you hope they get together, which is their sole function.
Though not as good as last year’s similarly plotted Netflix feature “Love at First Sight,” “Upgraded” meets expectation, as low as they might be. The only suggestion I have is to have a big piece of cake or hefty slab of pie nearby to eat while watching it. That way, once it’s done, you’ll have had a full meal.