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Culture Reviews
Nowhere to Go but Up aka Happy End
35mm
America Cinema

By Robert Lees

“Nowhere to go but up”, is director Amos Kollek’s first attempt at a romantic comedy and is a blatant money making exercise which hopes to cash in on the current popularity of French actress Audrey Tautou.

The story is simple: an aspiring foreign actress comes to America to make it big. She balances numerous of menial jobs while trying to fit in casting sessions and auditions. She encounters Jack, a screenwriter who is suffering from writer’s block. He watches her from a distance as she sleeps rough in his garden and writes a film about her. She gets the part in his film, becomes a star and then they fall in love. It has all the ingredients of a successful romantic comedy; a good story line and star actors, but somehow it manages to go badly wrong

The choice of Tautou in the role of Val Chipzik, an idealised French actress trying desperately to get her big break in Hollywood, is understandable. In the 2001 French hit film Amelie, she played the romantic waitress who tried to make other people’s dreams come true and in her English language debut “Dirty Pretty Things”, she played an immigrant trying to make it in a foreign culture. However in “Nowhere to go but up”, Tautou fails to live to the promise of her earlier films.

Even though “Nowhere to go but up” is a comedy it has to be plausible enough to get the audience to believe in it. At times it is too far fetched to be credible. As beautiful as Audrey Tautou undoubtedly is, it is unlikely that she would look that good if she really did sleep rough on the streets. Secondly when was the last time a successful Hollywood writer did his washing in a public laundrette? Do they not sell washing machines in the USA anymore?

There are a few mildly amusing scenes and the odd funny joke but there is nothing that makes the audience laugh out loud. Justin Theroux puts in a relatively good performance as Jack, the screenwriter, but is let down by some woeful dialogue and hammy acting on the part of Tautou.

Tautou however cannot carry all the blame for the failure of the film. The writers and casting directors must take some responsibility. The film is littered with a whole plethora of mediocre and clich?d characters played out with little conviction by a cast who realise that the film is little more than a vehicle for it leading actress.

In the supporting roles Jennifer Tilley cannot quite pull off the ridiculous part of Edna the lesbian ex convict poet. The same can also be said of Jenna Lamia whose performance as the slightly dopey wannabe actress, Sparkle, would have looked out of place in a school nativity play.

The Only Way is Up is a contemporary reworking of the 1961 hit, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. However this latest offering fails to rekindle the magic of the original. Where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard had an alluring on-screen chemistry, Audrey Tatou and her co-star, Justin Theroux are entirely unconvincing. The earlier had a fast paced and witty script whereas the latter is unnatural and entirely predictable.

It really only succeeds in highlighting the limitations of its lead actress, Audrey Tautou. The success of the whole film ultimately rests on her and she is incapable of carrying it off. Her lack of comic talent is cruelly exposed. Where she was quirky in Amelie and so natural in Dirty pretty things, she appears wooden and forced in this latest effort.

If she wants to shed her ‘Amelie’ tag, Audrey Tatou will have to move away from these cloyingly sweet roles and until she loses her strong French accent she will be limited to playing immigrant roles. “Nowhere to go but up” is not one of her better films and if an entertaining romantic comedy is the order of the day, then it is best left alone.

09.03.04
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