Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 7, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
Yes, somebody up there must like Max (Keith Poulson), the main character of the hilarious yet heartless “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” He’s neither charming nor particularly good-looking, but he lands lovely women like he’s Ryan Gosling.
Since Max is such a selfish jerk, his relationships either don’t last long or last much longer than they should, frequently due to infidelity (on top of persistent unhappiness). After splitting from his ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil), Max soon marries his fellow steakhouse server Lyla (Jess Weixler), who’s obsessed with breadsticks and goes along with their relationship for reasons that are never clear. Max seems to have no qualms about his growing lust for the couple’s babysitter (Stephanie Hunt of “Friday Night Lights”), who becomes their full-time nanny.
So why did I sort of like a movie with such a suck at its center? Because writer-director Bob Byington constantly gives “Somebody” personality, even if it’s like someone you meet and aren’t sure you like. The writing is as sharp as a nail on your seat. “I meant to compliment you earlier on your appearance and sense of humor,” Max tells a woman he’s just taken on an unpleasant first date. His efforts can barely be called efforts, and perhaps the movie means to depict how some people succeed in mysterious ways, almost in spite of themselves.
But I don’t think so. Byington jumps around in several five-year chunks, suggesting a life flying by without paying attention to how the characters relate to each other on a day-to-day basis.
The presence of Illinois native Nick Offerman (who also produced) as Max’s co-worker and only friend adds life and laughs to the movie, which frequently uses misheard or misinterpreted language to its advantage.
“Are you completely stupid?” Max’s ex asks him. “Completely?” he responds. It’s one of many times the movie made me laugh, but on an emotional level, like Max, I felt nothing.
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