‘Upgraded’ (2024) Review: One Little White Lie Spins Out of Control

Nuha Hassan
4 min readFeb 13, 2024
Camila Mendes as Ana. Image courtesy of Prime Video.

Rom-coms are back, baby! Carlson Young’s Upgraded is a clever romantic comedy about a young woman who tells a white lie to a guy to impress him, which spins out of control. Starring Camila Mendes (Do Revenge) and Archie Renaux (Shadow & Bone), with Marisa Tomei in a very questionable French accent, the movie sets itself as a meet-cute. But it’s more than a generic romantic comedy. While it follows the same rags-to-riches formulae, Upgraded offers other significant elements that make the movie a surprising entry into the genre.

The movie begins with Ana (Mendes), who lives with her sister, Vivian (Aimee Carrero) and her fiancé, Ronnie (Andrew Schulz), in their tiny apartment because she can’t afford to rent an apartment in New York City. Ana is stuck in her unpaid trainee job at the most famous auction house in New York City by Claire Dupont (Tomei). She dreams of running her gallery. Claire demands perfection and is meticulous about every detail of her auction events. After Ana saves the day, she is promoted to Claire’s third assistant and rewarded with a trip to London to help her in an important auction.

At the airport, Claire’s two assistants and mean girls who make her life miserable, Suzette (Rachel Matthews) and Renee (Fola Evans-Akingbola), book the worst seat in economy class but get upgraded to first class. Ana meets the charming and handsome Will (Renaux), whom she had split with Bloody Mary just hours before. Will thinks that Ana is a director at the auction house, but instead of correcting him, she lets the white lie spin out of control. Things get more complicated when Ana meets Will’s mother, Catherine (Lena Olin), who plans to sell her ex-husband’s fine art collection — the same auction that Ana is helping Claire. One little white lie complicates her life, possibly costing her a new romance with Will and her career.

Camila Mendes and Archie Renaux. Image courtesy of Prime Video.

Unlike the previous romantic comedies, Upgraded leans more towards Ana’s career than her romance with Will. Her professional life is not great, and this promotion to be Claire’s third assistant could help her career. Ana’s circumstances are similar to what Andy (Anne Hathaway) went through in The Devil Wears Prada, with a toxic workplace and a demanding boss with high expectations.

Perhaps the authentic dynamic isn’t even between Ana and Will; it’s Ana and Claire. This movie is a romantic comedy, but there’s so much more to it than what audiences see. This is a feminist movie — a movie that supports women, except for the two mean girls who try to ruin Ana’s life. It’s a story about taking a step towards your success, no matter what it takes, even if it means telling a few white lies to your romantic interest. What else to do when you have no connections and limited resources in a foreign country? Won’t you find ways to impress your boss? These are just rhetorical questions that only happen in fairytale-like stories, so don’t think about it too much.

Let’s get to the romance bit in Upgraded. Mendes and Renaux’s chemistry is sizzling. There are witty banter and lighthearted moments between them that will surely leave the audience giggling and kicking their feet (I know I did). Ana’s feelings towards Will aren’t deceptive. She’s doing the best she can in her circumstances. It’s a meet-cute that slowly blossoms into a whirlwind romance. But the third-act split is what crushes it. The story’s momentum fizzles out at this point because the story focuses on Ana’s career. This isn’t a huge issue, but it’s hard to be convinced of the reasons behind their break-up up until the last moments of Ana leaving London.

Regardless, Upgraded is worth a watch and a new comfort film. A romantic comedy that has less romance and more comedy with a feminist message is just what everybody needs. It’s a movie about the journey of self-discovery and transformation to upgrade her career for her ambitions.

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Decolonise Palestine

Books about Palestine on Verso Books

Books about Palestine on Haymarket Books

The Free Palestine Library

More Palestine reading materials

Read about the BDS movement