Allie Loukas’ debut film “Kathryn Upside Down” is the absolute proof that women can do comedy. Too often, we hear the outdated and frankly sexist statement that “women aren’t funny” whether this is in response to comedians such as Amy Schumer, or the remake of films such as “Ghostbusters” or an all female-led version of the ‘Ocean’s Eight’. Of course, we all know that comedy is subjective and there are many different variations on the genre. Female-led comedies have to adhere to some ridiculous standards and as a result, there is a great level of pressure on female comedic performances. Not only do they have to make you laugh, but they have to prove that they are worthy of your reaction.
Well, “Kathryn Upside Down” will make you laugh and it certainly passes the 6 laugh test as stated by critic Mark Kermode. The film’s humor is so outlandish and off-the-wall as some may put it, that it feels fresh and original in the way in presents its main character. However, Loukas also manages to pay homage to comedy classics that have come before, and the work of John Hughes. There is a sense of comfort with “Kathryn Upside Down” and how it follows the narrative beats of an 80s/90s classic coming-of-age film, and aside from the use of smartphones and certain references, this film almost feels like it is part of the golden age of teen comedies from the VHS era. Kathryn goes on a journey of self-discovery, and while it is an epic, grand-scale adventure, it’s certainly one that feels relatable despite it’s extraordinary circumstances.
The film follows Kathryn, a 20-something who is stuck living with her mother Elizabeth (Angela Beckefeld) and snobbish stepfather Todd (David Bastain). Kathryn is also stuck in terms of her career, working a dead-end job in a hair salon with a bitchy co-worker who seems hellbent on getting her fired. She aspires to be a playwright but lacks the motivation and frankly, Kathryn just feels like the odd-one-out in her mother and stepfather’s fancy upper-class lifestyle. During an afternoon party (where Kathryn gets fantastically drunk), the toilet gets blocked up which results in a plumber being called out to repair it.
“Allie Loukas’ debut film “Kathryn Upside Down” is the absolute proof that women can do comedy”
Bob the plumber (played by the charming Christopher M. Walsh) reminds Kathryn’s mother of a one night stand she had 20 or so years ago, one that resulted in the birth of Kathryn. All the pieces fall into place… As her stepfather puts it Kathryn has the mouth of the plumber so it’s only logical that she is the daughter of one. So, Kathryn’s biological father has just appeared in her life, and has sprayed her with toilet water quite literally, meaning that now Kathryn has to try and build up a relationship with a man she’s only just met and also move out of her family home into an apartment she’s found on Greg’s list. Her life really has been turned upside down.
The film is held together by Allie Loukas‘ zany performance and her energetic presence. The character of Kathryn wouldn’t look out of place hanging around with the likes of Phoebe Wallaer-Bridge’s “Fleabag”, or the gang from “Bridesmaids”. Yes, Kathryn drinks too much, she swears and smokes and she’s unapologetic honest. But, under that tough exterior, there is a vulnerable young girl who is lost in the world, trying to find her identity and trying to make sense of a huge bombshell. Loukas delivers a performance that is memorable, and you almost wish she had her own sitcom in the style of “Girls” or “Fleabag”. She’s certainly a character that would be worth following as she tries to chart her path into adulthood.
“Loukas manages to pull off quite an achievement and wears many hats in this production: not only is she the director and main star, but she is also the writer and a producer. One has to wonder how she managed to achieve all of this and keep her sanity!”
The other key players are also noteworthy. Kathryn’s roomie Raymundo ‘Ray Ray’ (Carlton G. McBeth) steals all the scenes that he appears in and has some of the wittiest lines in the film. Kathryn’s other flatmate, Gustav Hammerstein (Matt Edmonds) is equally hilarious. Praise also needs to go to Kathryn’s parents, with Angela Beckefeld being perfect in the role of a repressed mother who is also on her own journey of self-discovery. Christopher M. Walsh is wonderfully cast as Bob, and his scenes with Loukas are both hilarious and moving as we watch the relationship between these two characters unfold.
Although there are some slight issues in terms of sound and cinematography due to the budget restraints, there is still plenty to enjoy here that one is willing to overlook these slight flaws. Low budget filmmaking is an art within itself, and something that many of us take for granted. As a film graduate myself, I understand the complications of trying to produce a film with virtually no budget at all. Loukas manages to pull off quite an achievement and wears many hats in this production: not only is she the director and main star, but she is also the writer and a producer. One has to wonder how she managed to achieve all of this and keep her sanity!
Like all comedies, “Kathryn Upside Down” won’t appeal to all. Its humor is very adult and scandalous in place, so those who prefer their comedy a little more tame and family-friendly may not find this to their taste. Still, in a genre mostly dominated by male directors, writers and actors, it is refreshing to see a female-led comedy that isn’t afraid to be bold and daring. Allie Lokus is a director who deserves to go far and it will be interesting to see what she follows “Kathryn Upside Down” with.