In this quirky comedy, Somebody Up There Likes Me, a subversive film directed by Bob Byington, growing numb without a sense of time seems to be the everyday life of its characters. The film skips through 35 years in the life of Max Youngman (Keith Poulson), his best and only friend Sal (Nick Offerman, “Parks and Recreation”), and the woman they both adore (Jess Weixler, Teeth). They stumble in and out of hilariously misguided relationships that are strung together with animated vignettes by Bob Sabiston (A Scanner Darkly) and an original score by Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio.
In the midst of getting a divorce from his bitter wife (Kate Lyn Sheil), who openly admits she wore yellow to their wedding because this ‘wasn’t her first rodeo.’ Max then pursues the woman of his affection, Lyla (Jess Weixler), and daughter to cop (Marshall Bell). With a strange admiration to breadsticks the two get hitched and together still do not have a grasp on life. Onlookers are told that time progresses; however the main characters do not age as they are oblivious of the outside world throughout the duration. Max never ages as well, holding on to a mysterious briefcase that may or may not contain the secret to life- he remains perpetually youthful and lives his essentially joyless stagnant life which does not show through his emotions.
Through a large sum of money left by Lyla’s deceased father, Max and Lyla get a house together and start a life. Max then sees another weakness, Clarissa (Stephanie Hunt) on the corner, and hires her as their housekeeper. Throughout the years Lyla and Max’s relationship deteriorates, as Max takes a liking to Clarissa. Max and Lyla not only begin to resent each other, but Max is callous towards their son Lyle as he jokes “maybe we should send this one back.”
Max's best friend, Sal (Nick Offerman), moves into their guest house when they find prosperity. Fortunately for Lyle, he finds a father figure in Sal, and a mother figure in his nanny. Eventually, Max's marriage to Lyla ends, and his subsequent relationship with Clarissa ends as well.
The movie's writer/director, Bob Byington, sees perpetual youth not as a blessing of health and good looks, but as a curse of eternal callowness. Relationships are almost consistently doomed in this film. He never gives the characters any reasons as to why they would want to pursue a relationship in the first place. Perhaps the never-ending want to fill a void regardless of the lack of substance within.
The only person who seemed to breathe life into his character was Offerman, who plays a reliable and loyal friend to Max, even when he's angling to sleep with his wife. There's a good deal of imagination here, and quite a few laughs, but ultimately, when a story is conceived in which the characters are this hollow I couldn’t help but relate this back to our everyday life. Many people today are going through the movements, but emotionless. Could a briefcase that delivered a ‘fountain of youth’ be the answer to this black hole of despair in which we have set before us and has left us deterred off the main road? We do not know, however, we can always rely on Bob to sketch another comedic revelation and of course a lullaby from Megan Mullally couldn’t hurt either.
Published on Mar 20, 2013