The rom-com renaissance has arrived and the new movie Upgraded (on Prime Video), starring Camila Mendes and Archie Renaux, has reminded us why this genre is so loved.
Where to watch Upgraded: Prime Video
Upgraded release date: Feb. 9
Cast: Camila Mendes, Archie Renaux, Marisa Tomei, Lena Olin, Anthony Head, Rachel Matthews, Fola Evans-Akingbola, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Andrew Schulz, Aimee Carrero
Director: Carlson Young
What is 'Upgraded' about?
Mendes plays Ana, struggling to make ends meet with her low-level job at Erwin, a New York City-based art auction house, working under her harsh, cut-throat boss Claire (Marisa Tomei). Think Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wear Prada, but for art curation instead of fashion.
When Ana catches a typo in the catalogue for an auction, Claire decides to bring Ana on as her third assistant for a business trip to London.
But Ana hits a few snags in her new role, largely due to Claire's other assistants, Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola), trying to make Ana's job as difficult as possible. This includes booking Ana on a flight to London hours after the other three will travel, not only leaving her with no time to rest once she lands, but failing to tell Ana that she didn't have to arrive at the airport so early.
When an airline employee notices this mean girl behaviour, she throws Ana a bone and upgrades her flight to first class. It's a great perk, but Ana gets herself into some issues when she spills her bloody mary cocktail on another passenger, Will (Archie Renaux), who ends up sitting next to her on the flight.
The awkward interaction turns into some flirtatious banter over the course of the journey. Ana tells Will that she "works in the art business," but that turns into a lie, claiming to be the director of Erwin's New York office.
Of course, this isn't a one time lie that fades away. Will gets picked up at the airport by his fabulous, wealthy mother Catherine (Lena Olin), and they offer to drive her to her hotel, which means Ana needs to maintain this lie a bit longer.
As Ana becomes closer to Will, his mother and friend Julian Marx (Anthony Head) during her trip, Ana's lie about her job gets increasingly complicated and problematic.
'He really knows me well, ... and how I like to flirt'
Mendes not only stars in the movie, but she also serves as an executive producer of the film.
Mendes and Renaux actually share the same manager, and Mendes is a fan of the series Shadow and Bone, which Renaux starred in. The banter between Ana and Will is incredibly fun, a highlight of the movie as we see this relationship evolve.
"I think he's a great actor, and obviously very cute and charming, and I was like, I feel like he and I could have good chemistry," Mendes told Yahoo Canada. "He and I were just texting for months leading up to the film, so that we could create a good banter and have a good rapport."
"So by the time we got to set, there was already so much of a built up chemistry that I think worked out really well."
"We were having these kind of back and forwards, and teasing each other, and I think that's ... the quickest way into breaking down some barriers, breaking the ice and getting to know someone," Renaux said, in a separate interview. "You don't really know what to say and you're kind of stepping on each other's shoes a little bit, and there's a bit of overlapping, and that's kind of what really happened really, very naturally."
Mendes also highlighted that writers Luke Spencer Roberts and Justin Matthews were brought on, along with Christine Lenig, and their contributions really added a "modern" approach to the dialogue. Upgraded does feel like it has a similar tone to some of our favourite 2000s rom-coms, Amanda Bynes' What A Girl Wants quickly coming to mind, but Upgraded does feel quite fresh and updated.
"Justin Matthews and I have been friends for almost a decade, so he really knows me well, and knows my sense of humour, and how I like to flirt," Mendes said.
Camila Mendes would be more 'reserved' in real life falling in love with a stranger
Blending a sort of aspirational, travel love story with workplace drama, Upgraded ends by taking an interesting and effective approach to dealing with characters that could fall into the trope of battling women at work.
"It's definitely a very classic women supporting women move," Mendes said. "I think killing people with kindness sometimes is the best method."
"I feel like Ana is a very gracious person and for her, it's all about doing things differently. It's like, I'm not going to continue on and feed into this cycle of meanness, I'm going to flip the script and do things differently."
In order for a rom-com to succeed, much of it comes down to the film being able to find that balance between the coincidental, "fate brought them together" aspects of the story, but in a way that isn't too cheesy. Upgraded does achieve that balance well, even if we maybe wouldn't necessarily get in a car with a stranger we just met on a flight. But Mendes agrees with that as well.
"In real life I think I can be way more reserved with experiences like that," she said. "I think I'd be more cautious than that, than to just jump in so fast and take a ride home with someone I've never met."
"But I definitely would exchange numbers if I met someone I really wanted to keep in touch with. I definitely would exchange numbers and meet up maybe at a different time."