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Life Upside Down movie review (2023)


COVID has inspired filmmakers stuck at home, with traditional projects on hold, to turn the isolation and disruption of the pandemic into movies that work around the requirements of social distancing and document some of the stresses and adjustments we have all experienced. Even with a very strong cast, “Life Upside Down” is a lesser entry in this category due to a weak screenplay from director Cecilia Miniucchi that relies on tepid dialogue and awkward and distracting workarounds. Keeping an alpha predator off-screen intensifies the tension in “Jaws.” But in this film, a character we meet in the first in a pre-pandemic scene is shot only from behind once everyone is stuck at home. Clearly, someone is standing in for the actress to maintain social distance, a clumsy dodge that takes us out of the story.

That character is the patient wife of Jonathan Wigglesworth, an art gallery owner played by Bob Odenkirk, who is cheating on her with a professor named Clarissa Cranes (Radha Mitchell). That first scene, the only one until the very end where we see all the characters together, is an opening at his gallery. Jonathan and Clarissa are so hot for each other that they grab some chocolate-covered strawberries and sneak into his office for an assignation in the middle of the reception.  

The pandemic is very inconvenient for people whose entire relationship (as we will see) is primarily stolen minutes together and who really have very little to say to one another beyond telling each other how much they want to be together. It’s also very tough on Jonathan’s business. Buying art, like having an affair, relies on in-person contact. 

Clarissa’s close friend, also on the faculty, is Paul (Danny Huston), who is married to the much younger Rita (Rosie Fellner). He treats her more like a pet than a partner and barely notices her bristle when he talks down to her because she does not share his intellectual pursuits. Because Huston and Fellner are in a real-life relationship and share a daughter, they are in the same room together in most of their scenes and have a natural connection that makes their moments the film’s most authentic.

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