By Don Simpson | April 4, 2013
Director: Bob Byington
Writer: Bob Byington
Starring: Nick Offerman, Keith Poulson, Jess Weixler, Stephanie Hunt, Marshall Bell, Kate Lyn Sheil, Kevin Corrigan, Jonathan Togo, Megan Mullally, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Allison Latta, Bob Schneider, Chris Doubek, Ian Graffunder, Stephen Gurewitz
Max (Keith Poulson) dons a bouquet of flowers as he stumbles in on his ex-wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) having sex with another man. Any hopes that the hapless Max may have of reconciling with his ex are instantly extinguished, so Max returns to his mundane existence as a waiter, made worthwhile only by the the brazen wit of his seasoned co-worker, Sal (Nick Offerman).
Whether out of boredom or laziness, Max likes to love the one he’s with, so he commences a relationship with a breadstick-fixated co-worker, Lyla (Jess Weixler). Next thing we know, Lyla and Max are married; then, a mere few frames later they already have a young child. The presence of a child then justifies the hiring of a smokin’ hot young nanny (Stephanie Hunt). With Max being the easily distracted fella that he is, we can see the writing on the wall. Destined to not be happily wed for very long, Max must live out the remainder of his ageless life emotionally detached from everyone else.
Max does not exert effort towards anything that he does, and it becomes increasingly difficult to like a protagonist whose laziness overpowers all else. Just drifting aimlessly through life with no sense of meaning or purpose, Max barely does anything — heck, he is even too lazy to age. Max may possess a magical suitcase that holds the power to stop some aspects of time, but he wastes that power just as he wastes his life. However, since Somebody Up There Likes Me spans 35 years within the confines of a mere 76-minute running time, Max is able to utilize that magical power to protect writer-director Bob Byington from having to rely on aging make-up or multiple actors to portray the passage of time. This nonsensically surreal narrative device also allows for Byington to all but remove time from the lives of his characters. Their lives don’t abide by any schedule, structure or logic. It could very well be the absence of time that neuters Max’s will and motivation. Even though the human construct of time is often associated with stress, it also provides us with a linear path for our existence. Time allows for us to develop and mature, instead of remaining in a perpetual state of floppy-haired twentysomethingness like Max.
Somebody Up There Likes Me benefits from Byington’s absurd approach to language and conversation. The off-kilter timing and deadpan delivery lends Somebody Up There Likes Me the allusion of a screwball comedy that is constantly slowing down, speeding up, pausing and skipping forward. The resulting disjointed nature of the interpersonal communication creates a world in which no one can truly connect. They talk a lot, but no one is ever listening. Everyone seems stuck on their own unique plane of existence, when they do intersect it is only for a fleeting moment. Like a treatise on the breakdown of interpersonal communication among modern humans, Somebody Up There Likes Me even removes technology and social media from the equation and the situation still seems irreparable. It is a sad, sad, sad, sad world.
While jotting down some notes for this review, I noticed the similar spelling of the words “cyclical” and “cynical.” It instantly made sense to pair the two words together in relation to the cynical cyclicality — or, cyclical cynicism — of life within Somebody Up There Likes Me. The film is cyclical in terms of its revolving doors of marriage and divorce, an endless circle that can only be broken by death. The film’s ever-present cynical attitude towards life and love is masterminded by a misanthropic omnipotent being — Byington — who presides over this unique cinematic universe.