BIFF 2013 - Somebody Up There Likes Me - Cinema Review

'where The Color Wheel threw the palette out of the window, Somebody Up There throws it at the screen. This is Ugly Betty and then some'

BIFF regulars may now be getting tired of mention of 2012's The Color Wheel, normally with reference to the programming of the Uncharted States Of America strand. There's good reason though. The Color Wheel presented what arguably could be classed as a genuinely new brand of Comedy. A smart, tetchy Indie, with a great script, a risqué conclusion and an art-house camera filter; it had, at the very least, something fresh enough to take note of. At this point, step forward Somebody Up There Likes Me.

Whilst it may not prove to have the staying power of The Color Wheel, Somebody Up There continues Uncharted States run of finding US comedies which create new constructs in a genre famously ignored by the critical elite. The plot plonks us into familiar adultery-and-livelihoods territory but there are several interesting catches. For starters, director Bob Byington doesn't bother - or can't afford - to age the actors, as  the characters move through three generations of life and death in Max's (Keith Poulson) odd extended family. The look of his film too is again individual but where The Color Wheel threw the palette out of the window, Somebody Up There throws it at the screen. This is Ugly Betty and then some, a film with a look modelled on sweetshop reds and zested-lemon yellows.

It is also a film that knows how to move. At just seventy-six minutes, no scene wastes time. One-liners become half-liners. There's nudity but, no sex here please, we're in a rush. The pace can create plot confusion but it moves by so fast it's arguable you won't have time to take offence. The comforting device of constantly returning us to the restaurant Max and Sal (Nick Offerman) work in gives us, and them, a much needed grounding.

Destined to be the type of film that divides people - the one thing you cannot fault Byington for is following through on his vision - you could suggest that Somebody Up There could really benefit from dropping a few of its presentational tweaks. Not content with its already cartoony colours, the inter-titles, which frequently move us on five years, are tweely animated. A mysterious suitcase, which is left to the viewer to interpret, gives out a soft blue light of mystery. Reign in a few of these more overt design tweaks and you arguably have a tighter film, and possibly, a more receptive audiences.

Somebody Up There Likes Me has already had an airing in the States to not great acclaim, which should only cement its claim to doing something new - unusual and very dry - with comedy, with the mainstream purveyors feeling increasingly generic. This does though, have the better chance of breaking through, when compared to The Color Wheel and, in case you hadn't yet had your fill of mentions of that film, its director and co-star, Alex Ross Perry, crops up here with a cameo.

Somebody Up There Likes Me screens again on Wednesday 17th April.

The 19th Bradford International Film Festival runs from 11th to 21st April 2013 at the National Media Museum and other venues near to the city.


  1. Great to learn that you're a Color Wheel fan too. The comedy in it is magnificent. Such great comedic chemistry. Did you hear Filmepotting's roundup of the year last year? They were shouting its praises too

    1. I didn't hear that no but glad to hear some have been championing it, sadly flew far too far under the radar.