Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Goes Up, Steve Coogan, 2009

When I imagine myself among teenagers, I see myself being older and wiser, ready to offer sage advice, but not really understanding their problems or being the least bit helpful.

What Goes Up is a comedy-drama set in 1986. Steve Coogan plays a New York reporter sent to Concord, New Hampshire, to cover the story of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher about to be launched on the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger.

Instead he finds himself with a group of students, outcasts placed in a special class in a separate building, whose beloved teacher has just committed suicide. The teacher was an old college classmate of Coogan's. They haven't communicated in years. But the kids think they were "best friends" and Coogan, seeing a story, doesn't correct them.

A little hard to watch, Coogan not being honest with the kids who are upset and a bit screwed up to begin with, some with more serious problems than others. There's the mystery of what impropriety led the teacher to take his own life. Molly Shannon plays the choir teacher putting together a performance to celebrate the space shuttle launch, the students--the normal kids--cheerfully rehearsing, not knowing what's to come.

And there's Coogan's character, up for a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles he had written, hoping he doesn't win so he won't have to admit that the stories weren't completely true.

I liked it. But I see that a lot of critics attacked it. A quote from Variety:

"...a pointless and pretentious drama that -- given its title and direct linkage to the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster -- nearly adds tasteless to its unflattering hat trick."

Nearly adds tasteless? Doesn't that just mean that it wasn't tasteless?

Available on DVD from Netflix

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