SXSW Movie Review: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME

Even Nick Offerman can't save this tonally confused satire.

SXSW Movie Review: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME
“I think it’s funny that we all sort of think we’re not gonna die.” Bob Byington’s latest begins on a bleak, distant note in which Nick Offerman as Sal paves the way in a true to form deadpan fashion. Steadily we’re taken back in time to unearth the bud of this backdrop, starting with his friendship with a younger, rather detached nincompoop, Max (Keith Poulson).
 
Max is having drinks with a stranger (Kevin Corrigan) who’s just caught him returning a bouquet to his mother’s roadside memorial. He’d smuggled them in an attempt to rekindle a frankly DOA relationship with his apathetic ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil). In this unreality he takes into account the stranger’s green words of wisdom to “marry the next woman you see” and sets his sights on his and Sal’s upscale chophouse co-worker, an all-thumbs breadsticks addict Lyla (Jess Weixler). In five-year increments we follow the trio over the next few decades, caught in a cobweb of adversity as time gets away from the lot of them.
 
Much like his films before, Somebody Up There Likes Me works best as a satire with a familiar cast of performers at the helm to continuously support the writer/director in doing what he does best -- poke fun at bawdy human vices. Remiss not to mention that Nick Offerman’s larger than life presence and Swanson-esque baritone are mostly responsible for driving all of it home in a way that feels earned. And it’s no wonder the part was written with the actor in mind.

Lamentably, it’s impractical to discuss the most interesting thematic aspect of the film, a mysterious, light harboring suitcase, which both offers a truly unique fantasy element and does its best to detract from the overall lost tone of the film.

And that tone confusion is where the true crux of the film lies. It’s at once hastily detached from sentimentality and run-of-the-mill principles, yet when the satire doesn’t register it’s equally detached from the audience. Should we take the bait and give a crap? The end result is a restless mixture of something pleasant, benign and yet completely slight. One even gets the feeling that the filmmaker couldn't care less which path you choose.

And I can’t really bring this up without referencing one of the most bizarre Q&As led by the Byington himself. It’s always difficult to introduce the Q&A element into a review, given that it won’t be a ritual component to a hypothetical viewer, but it’s worth mentioning when one sits through a movie and wonders if all of it’s just some joke on the audience as the camera fixes on the young female ingénues on display. Add to that the director disregarding every question from the audience, behaving rather flip and fixating on how much he wanted one of his actresses, Stephanie Hunt (Friday Night Lights) to take her top off.

In the end if we do really care about the textual meaning of our films it seems the phrase “somebody up there likes me” could be confirming the worst possible suspicion: that some folks are still rewarded good fortune in spite of being loathsome.

April Swartz's photo About the Author: April is a Texas native, granddaughter of Spanky’s little sister from the Little Rascals, initiator of arguably inane meme: Donna Martin Cryfest, homemade special effects enthusiast, and devotee of all things film and writing (only recently did she opt to marry the latter).
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