Upgraded Parent Guide
The romance feels like an obligation rather than the driving force of the plot.
Parent Movie Review
Ana (Camila Mendes) is a struggling art auction house intern with dreams of opening her own gallery. To do that you need money and connections, which is why she’s trying desperately to get noticed by her boss, Claire (Marisa Tomei). When an opportunity to go to London pops up, Ana immediately accepts, even though it means taking the lowly position as Claire’s third assistante. As the trip gets off to a rocky start, a sympathetic gate agent upgrades Ana to first class, a perk beyond her dreams. On the plane, she meets the handsome William (Archie Renaux), who mistakes her for the director of the auction house rather than an assistant. Assuming she’ll never see him again, Ana chooses to live in the fantasy for a few hours.
Unfortunately for Ana, she soon finds herself swept up in Will’s circle. Desperately trying to keep all of her lies straight while also getting her work done, Ana finds herself falling for him, while he falls for a version of her that doesn’t exist.
My number one pet peeve in romance movies is a plot that hinges on a simple miscommunication. If your plot conflict can be solved by someone saying one sentence, you’ve written a bad story. Knowing the premise of this film going into it, I fully expected that to be the case with Upgraded. Thankfully, although the deceit and miscommunication are frustrating for viewers, the writers actually put some thought into why she lied and why she can’t easily get out of it, making the narrative easier to stomach.
Don’t get me wrong, Upgraded is, for the most part, a paint-by-numbers romance. It’s predictable and fluffy and corny, just as you’d expect. But there are some moments of brilliance as well. The story is essentially a modern Cinderella – with an uninteresting prince. The weakest part of the film is the central romance. Will could have been written out and the story wouldn’t have been much different; the romance feels like an obligation rather than a driving force.
The messages of the film are deeper than the norm for the genre, though they are muddled if you think about them too much. Like yes, lying is bad but also Ana succeeds because of her lies, so does that mean it’s good? Or is the film a critique of the upper class and how the only way to get rich is through family connections or a mix of lying and luck? There’s an anti-rich people thread running subtly in the background which offers moments of snarky fun but it never goes anywhere. (Perhaps the writers snuck that in without the studio executives noticing, which is a real treat to think about.)
The star of the film, far and away, is Marisa Tomei with her wonderfully campy performance as Claire, the evil stepmother, if we’re following the Cinderella tale. She steals every scene with her unplaceable European accent, aloof manner, and silly requests. Yet, there is something deeper there, and one gets the sense that this character has a long history. Amongst the camp, Tomei adds a layer of quiet, a thoughtfulness that a lesser actor wouldn’t have thought to include.
I have mixed feelings about the film, because I do think it amounts to more than just Cinderella-meets-The Devil Wears Prada, but it also fails to fully explore or take a side on the deeper issues it brings up. I’m not generally a huge fan of romance flicks, so perhaps I’m not the target audience. Given the choice between Upgraded and most of the saccharine slop the studios put out this time of year I would choose this. However, the level of negative content is worth noting for fans of the genre. The main concerns here are swearing and drinking. The sexual content is light for a Restricted movie, with no sex on screen and infrequent sexual references and innuendo. The nudity in the film is in classical paintings, so whether you count that as real nudity or not is up to you. Fans of the genre (with no qualms around the aforementioned content concerns) are sure to enjoy this predictable, sweet, story. Viewers with less susceptibility for romance may find themselves drawn in by the deeper issues and themes, which surely counts as an upgrade.Directed by Carlson Young. Starring Camila Mendes, Archie Renaux, Marisa Tomei. Running time: 104 minutes. Theatrical release February 9, 2024. Updated February 9, 2024
Watch the trailer for Upgraded
Rating & Content Info
Why is Upgraded rated R? Upgraded is rated R by the MPAA for language and some nude art images.
Sexual Content: Adult couples kiss. Some sexual references and innuendo. Nude paintings are seen in the background of some scenes.
Profanity: The script contains six sexual expletives, approximately two dozen, and 20 terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters drink socially in many scenes; in some cases to obvious excess. A man is seen smoking in the background.
Page last updated February 9, 2024
Upgraded Parents' Guide
Why does Ana lie about her job to Will in the first place? How does she feel about her life and how does she let that insecurity affect her choices?
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The obvious comparison is The Devil Wears Prada, which stars Meryl Streep as a domineering boss and Anne Hathaway as her cowed assistant. In The Proposal, a despised boss forces her assistant to pretend to be engaged to her so she won’t be deported. A fashion-mad orphan first idolizes and then seeks to destroy her Machiavellian boss in Cruella.