I am a Wes Anderson fanboy.
There, I said it. Yes, I realize it makes me a stereotype and, yes, I’ve heard all the criticism about how he puts “style over substance.” But that doesn’t mean I haven’t liked everything he’s made since “Bottle Rocket” and won’t continue to like everything he puts out.
So now that we got that digression out of the way, I can explain that the only reason I picked Bob Byington’s 2012 film “Somebody Up There Likes Me” is because someone described it to me as Wes Anderson-y.
As for the film living up to its descriptor of “Wes Anderson-y,” I am conflicted. Will fans of Anderson like this film? Absolutely. Is it the same thing? Kind of.
The film is certainly similar to Anderson’s work. It could even be mistaken for some kind of proto-Anderson film. However, “Someone Up There Likes Me” lacks the earnestness with which all of Anderson’s films are propelled forward.
Rather “Someone Up There Likes Me” floats by with all of the energy of a passing cloud.
Well, that and The Kinks don’t appear in the soundtrack, so it can’t be a Wes Anderson movie.
“Someone Up There Likes Me” is the story of the life of Max.
Max (Keith Poulson) is a dude, and that’s pretty much all there is to him. One day, Max finds a suitcase at the airport. It’s unclear what exactly is in it (the movie pulls a “Pulp Fiction”), but it apparently prevents Max from showing any signs of aging.
However, the whole “eternal youth” thing is shoved into the back seat for pretty much the entire movie. That plot point only serves as an explanation as to why Max looks no different.
Not that it matters, of course, because no one around him matures at all. Despite 35 years passing in the movie, the only difference in the five-year increments seems to be the situations in which the characters find themselves.
Sure, Max is now a manager and his best friend Sal (Nick Offerman) has now divorced his wife, but they’re still the same people we saw in the beginning.
Quirkiness abounds, but all of it is delivered in a light, airy deadpan. While Poulson and his supporting actors were good, I found Offerman to be the real workhorse of the film.
To be fair, deadpan is Offerman’s speciality, something all of America realized after watching him on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” However, I do sometimes worry about his being typecasted, as everything he’s in seems to be “Nick Offerman as Nick Offerman.”
Oh, well. Stick with what you’re good at, I guess.
As I said before, there is no character development at all. The characters we get in the beginning are the characters we get in the end.
Until the day he dies, Max is who he is. I mean, the film might as well have been in real time for all the difference 35 years has made. Sal, too, is the same, although the trademark Offerman facial hair has grown considerably grayer.
I’m not saying that the time-progression thing has no meaning to it. Every five-year jump feels like the lives of the main characters have progressed from a material and situational standpoint. However, they don’t mature at all in an emotional sense. The film might as well be a series of sketches connecting the main characters.
Not that the lack of substance is a bad thing. In fact, it wouldn’t fit the atmosphere the film’s going for it there were some grand lessons learned about the meaning of life and all that jazz.
“Someone Up There Likes Me” is a cute movie. The people, (most of) the costumes, the situations—all cute. Even the score, with its tinkling xylophones, is cute.
Thus, it’s a sweet little exercise in quirkiness that is a joy to watch.
However, its greatest weakness is that it’s ultimately forgettable—in your mind for a day after you watch it and then gone forever like so much cotton candy in the wind.