Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 21, 2024

Upgraded spells hope for contemporary romantic comedies

By ALICIA GUEVARA | February 15, 2024

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GAGE SKIDMORE / CC BY-SA 2.0

Camila Mendes plays an ambitious intern who lies about her position to impress a potential love interest, who unfortunately turns out to be the son of a wealthy client.

Some words of advice before you start watching Upgraded: Do not watch it in a public setting. Not because it’s explicit or graphic or any of those reasons you might be thinking — shame, shame — but because it’s surprisingly funny. I may or may not have started watching it in a study lounge and had to remove myself because I was laughing so loudly in the opening 10 minutes.

Newly released on Amazon Prime on Feb. 9, Upgraded is a classic romantic comedy complete with the lighthearted romance, quirky characters and overblown misunderstandings characteristic of the genre. In the film, Ana (Camila Mendes) is an ambitious art intern working for a New York auction house who lies about her job title to impress William (Archie Renaux), a handsome British man she meets on a plane. When it turns out that William is the son of an important client, the truth about Ana’s identity threatens to emerge, complicating their budding romance.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it sounds cheesy. The plot is cliché, and we already have so many rom-coms where the female lead lies about her identity to a rich man (think Maid in Manhattan, Working Girl, etc.). And while rom-coms tend to follow plots that beg viewers to suspend their disbelief, the idea that anyone would just continually and blatantly lie to everyone about their job instead of just coming clean right away is a bit hard to swallow. Not only that but having a main character that lies and manipulates people so that she can get ahead in her career is risky. It’s really easy to dislike that kind of character, especially when, as the audience, we have to continue to watch them make all the wrong decisions.

But, I think Upgraded does a good job of recognizing these potential pitfalls and either sidestepping them or addressing them head-on. Mendes brings a charisma to Ana that makes you like her in spite of her questionable choices. Renaux also complements her well in his role as her romantic interest, and their flirtatious exchanges are as cute as they are funny. He was especially charming in his scenes coaching kids in soccer (yes, William is a wealthy ad executive AND he coaches children in his free time).

Admittedly, the train wreck that is Ana’s life is predictable. We know she’s going to get caught. This is a given. We know that William is going to be upset, and we know that she’ll probably get fired. These are the inevitable consequences. But I was pleasantly surprised by the maturity Ana shows in the final half of the film. Instead of just moping or begging for forgiveness, Ana takes a look at herself to evolve as a person, and this in turn makes her a stronger character. This especially hit home with the line, “I lied, Catherine. Because I wanted to live somebody else’s life for once because I am so insecure of my own.”

While the plot itself is not necessarily unique or special, the film itself feels carefully crafted. The banter is funny and clever. The dialogue is well-written and witty. It’s so different from what I was expecting, or have come to expect, from more recent romantic comedies, because it feels well thought out. The characters aren’t perfect, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re great, but they feel fuller and more real than I anticipated.

However, I do wish that some of the side characters could have had more time to develop. My favorite dynamic was between Ana, her sister and her sister’s fiancé at the beginning of the film. I would have loved to see more of their interactions throughout the movie, not just at the beginning and end. I also think Ana’s best friend Amy (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) had the potential to be an interesting character, but we got very few scenes with her as well.

I really enjoyed watching this film. With Valentine’s Day at the forefront of our minds, if you’re in the mood for a new romantic comedy with some great one-liners, I would definitely recommend you give this movie a try. It’s no When Harry Met Sally but it’s sweet, happy and fun to watch. 


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