' ' Cinema Romantico: What Goes Up

Monday, October 11, 2010

What Goes Up

Oh, this film sighs the lack of the many things it sought. Released in 2009 but set in January of 1986 it centers around New York reporter Campbell Babbit (Steve Coogan) being assigned northward to Concord, New Hampshire to find a story in the school and town that boasts Christa McAuliffe, the teacher about to depart for the stars aboard the Challenger space shuttle.

But upon his arrival another story catches his eye, one that involves a former college friend, now a teacher at the high school, whom Campbell has not spoken to in years and who has apparently just taken his life. He had been in charge of a homeroom of misfit and/or motley students that all looked at him as a light in their life. Babbit attends the wake and falls into rhythm with this noncomforist crew and tries to tell his editor this is the story but she ain't having it and anyway it seems that a previous story of Babbit's, a story on which he might just have gone all Jayson Blair, is in the running for a Pulitzer (of course, it is) and really his primary focus with this new story seems to be less the story than the bizarre flirtation he has going with the same girl who possibly had a bizarre flirtation with the homeroom teacher. This would be Lucy, played rather idly by Hilary Duff.

(Reader's Note: I know exactly what you're thinking. Why did I Netflix a Hilary Duff movie? Just hear me out, okay? I watched "Solitary Man" and it had featured Olivia Thirlby - who I admire as a tremendous up and coming talent - except her name wasn't featured in the credits and so I checked out her IMDB page for confirmation and saw that, sure enough, for whatever reason she was uncredited and then I happened to notice "What Goes Up" on her IMDB page and the premise of it and since I am such an old man that I vividly recollect watching the Challenger disaster on TV in my 2nd grade classroom, well, here we are. So back off, jackals. But let's also take this parenthetical moment to re-establish that Hilary Duff absolutely, unequivocally, inarguably should not be re-imagining the role of Bonnie Parker. Okay? Are we cowabunga on this? Her line readings in that nasally voice of hers are just so colorless, so without texture. It's as if she's just reading straight out of a script in her hand. She can make doe eyes semi-decently, I guess, but Bonnie Parker is about a whole heck of a lot more than doe eyes so please, someone, put a stop to this before it's too late. The fate of the world may depend on it.)

The film itself is oddly paced and without a real solid sense of structure, just skipping to and fro from a thesis on the myths and realities of heroes in society and a new fangled version of "The Breakfast Club" (it thankfully keeps its obligatory 80's references to the bare minimum) to an all-out teenage comedy to "Lolita" to "Shattered Glass" and never gains a sense of what is its main plot and what are its subplots.

Its main plot wants to focus on heroes, so much so that this Babbit/Lucy May-December pseudo-drama it keeps shoving in our face winds up getting shoved aside for the more agitated relationship between Babbit and Lucy's brooding, eternally hooded pal Tess (Thirlby) who knew more about the relationship between Lucy and Teacher than anyone and has potential ulterior motives stashed away beneath all that sullenness. The final showdown between these two is where the movie's real heart lies - even though the movie Pounds The Hammer with its dialogue - which makes it a mighty shame that so much of the film devolves into a grade school stage show, not unlike the one being put on by Molly Shannon's (another actress I can't stand!) music teacher/volleyball coach.

Visually director Jonathan Glatzer manages several evocative images and portions of the music score by Roddy Bottum (yes, yes, yes, that name is apparently real) are simultaneously quirky and simultaneously beautiful, like the little interlude leading up to the beloved teacher's wake, which suggests the tone the movie was shooting for but could not quite pull off scene to scene. I wish it would have - honest, I do, but sometimes you see a movie that you really want to like and it just won't let you.


Wretched Genius said...

Damn right Roddy Bottum is real. He was one of the founders of Faith No More.

Nick Prigge said...

Is he really? I did not know that. I can't say I have any Faith No More in my collection. Perhaps I should.

Simon said...

As always, we must rely on Allison Pill to carry that B&C abomination. Or was it Thora Birch? God, it's either one or the other, isn't it?

Nick Prigge said...

It's Thora Birch. Taking the role for which Estelle Parsons won the Oscar. Supposedly it starts shooting in November. God help us all.