Part Cinderella story and all romcom, Upgraded is the newest selection from Amazon Prime Video. Starring Riverdale alum Camila Mendes and Shadow and Bone star Archie Renaux, this modern-day fairytale doesn’t do any dazzling except for a few standout character actors.
Mendez plays Ana, an art-obsessed intern with a Master’s degree, no formal living situation, and mountains of debt. She works at Erwin’s auction house under a Miranda Priestly wanna-be boss played by Marissa Tomei. After someone’s slip-up costs them their career, Ana rank in her office improves granting her a place on a work trip to London. After a ticket agent (a delightful Juliet Agnes) sees the abuse inflicted on her by her two superior assistants, Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola), Ana gets upgraded to first class.
After a mishap in the airport lounge involving William (Renaux), she gets stuck in the airplane seat next to him where they chat, flirt, and Ana gives the impression that she is the director of the New York branch of her company. After they land, they keep running into each other as Ana continues the charade at the eventual determent to their budding relationship and her career.
The love story between Ana and William is the most uninteresting part of this rom-com. It’s not entirely Mendes and Renaux’s fault when you have Lena Olin playing an eccentric and rich mother role and the great Anthony Head taking time away from playing a villain to portray a scene-stealing artist who fakes his death to make more money. Easily the best part of Upgraded, the two veteran actors are a joy to watch, whether apart or together.
Marisa Tomei is too good for the role Christine Lenig, Luke Spencer Roberts, and Justin Matthews have written for her. The firing sequence at the beginning comes off as cruel and abusive rather than fun and bitchy as we’ve seen in other romcoms. When Claire softens up, Tomei brings dimension to the role but is otherwise trying to elevate one-note lines.
Another stand-out is the underused Saoirse-Monica Jackson, who you may know from Derry Girls. Playing up the Irish sex-crazed artist, she executes the best-friend role well, despite her little screentime. I would have preferred to watch her over Ana and William who both feel like your stereotypical hetero romcom couple with forced chemistry.
Upgraded is a standard romantic comedy in every sense of the word. At a time when writers and directors are doing interesting things with classic genres, I expected more from a mundane love story about pretty people.
Prime Video is streaming Upgraded exclusively now.