SFIFF – Somebody Up There Likes Me
Sometimes, I’m a bit shallow when it comes to my film choices, particularly at festivals. I was attracted Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me solely because Nick Offerman is in it. I will follow Ron Swanson anywhere. Including into screenings of caustic, mostly empty, deadpan comedies. Which Somebody totally is.
Byington has six directing credits according to his page at IMDb. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen or heard of any of them. Although, a few sites I read had some very nice things to say about 2009′s Harmony and Me. I’m not even sure if his other film’s are comedies or not. I’m not even sure whether or not Somebody is either. Byington also wrote the film.
The film’s main character is an unmotivated waiter at a steakhouse named Max, played by dead-eyed Keith Poulson. He’s young, but already divorced. And it’s easy to see why. His monotonous countenance matches his lack of ambition or motivation. His finest attribute is being friends with the equally unmotivated, and fellow waiter Sal (Nick Offerman). Sal’s hatred of his wives, current or past, often provide the film’s funniest moments, particularly when there is marijuana involved. Max becomes involved with fellow waitress Lyla, played by Jess Weixler. You may remember Weixler from the film Teeth a few years ago, where she suffered from a terrifying case of vagina dentata. From this point on, it’s difficult to really point out major plot points, as Byington’s brightest talent seems to be stripping this comedy of all personality. Or comedy.
There’s money inherited, infidelity, more divorce, more deadpan ‘jokes’ that just can’t quite find a punchline. And still, none of the characters are likable, or worse, interesting. Picture Napoleon Dynamite without any quotable lines. This being said by someone who thought Napoleon was offensively stupid.
I feel like it would be unfair to blame any of the film’s failures on the cast. Poulson, Weixler and Offerman all seem to encapsulate Byington’s vision for the film. And since he both wrote and directed, it seems only he can be held responsible for what the film ultimately ended up being: limp and dead on arrival.