What Goes Up follows a “morally challenged” NY reporter, Campbell Babbitt (Steve Coogan), who returns to a small New Hampshire town to cover his hometown news surrounding the first civilian and teacher in space in the 1980s, giving us a glimpse into how heroes are made in this world. While there, he learns a few life lessons from a group of disaffected students (Hilary Duff, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby) who are mourning the loss of their teacher (and Babbitt’s friend), who committed suicide. Hilary Duff plays a “narcissistic seductress” named Lucy.
The movie itself is based around a story of heroism, a true one about the Challenger launch, but the real story is how regular people come to be heroes themselves… intentionally or not. Sometimes this came through much better than at other times. I actually thought that sometimes including the Challenger launch made the tie to heroism more literal than it needed to be, but it was the foundation for what brought all these characters together.
My favorite performances in the film came from Olivia Thirlby and Josh Peck, whose characters struggled with complex emotions and situations. Their stories were the most moving, and most disturbing, I think. I thought Hilary Duff did a great job at portraying Lucy, though I think some of the other sub-plots kind of distracted from Lucy’s storyline and the pain she’s trying to get across. My favorite scene of Hilary’s was one where she was with co-star Olivia Thirlby during a particularly emotional segment – to me, this was a lot more moving than Lucy’s infatuation with her teacher or the reporter.
Overall, I thought the movie was pretty good. I think it would have been better without so many side-plots – although I wouldn’t necessarily remove any characters, I wouldn’t give them all the same focus either. I thought the characters portrayed by Molly Shannon and some of the other classmates (especially the two weird girls and the shoplifting girl) could have been minimized. I think this may have helped to put more focus on the really strong plotlines of the other characters.
I think you’ll enjoy the movie – Hilary Duff has shown a whole new side to us in this film, which is always her goal as an actress. I hope you get a chance to see it in the theater – but if not, I’ll let you know when it officially comes out on DVD!
Check out these other reviews for What Goes Up:
- Gordon and the Whale
- Hollywood Reporter
- News Blaze
- Hollywood Examiner
- New York Times
- New York Daily News
- LA Times
- Chicago Tribune
- Philadelphia Metro
- Film Critic
Photo credit: Paul Michaud and Marcel Williams