Having Fun Up There (2014) – By Philip Smolen

Mark Kessel (Jon Ryan) is a late 30ish musician who had a taste of some success when he was a young man. Twenty years later, Mark’s still playing and writing music and trying to at least reach the level of achievement that he initially attained. Unfortunately, adulthood is quickly pushing his music into the background. His best friend/girl friend Carla (an incredible Maria Natapov) can’t decide whether to stay in rehab, hang with Mark or get back with her old boyfriend. Even worse, Mark just got fired from his job as a coffee barista and his new band has just decided to go on hiatus after playing a miserable gig that netted them a total of $12! Drowning his sorrows at the bar, Mark meets an actual fan named Kerry (a deliciously quirky Hana Carpenter) and they strike up a friendship. Mark sees a lot of himself in Hana; she’s young, focused and determined, just like he was. But Mark’s cynicism about the music business rubs Hana the wrong way, especially when she tells him she’s going on tour. Mark then starts to question everything, including his music. And that was the one thing that kept him going. So as his 40s loom large, Mark has to find a way to reclaim his life without losing his musical soul.

“Having Fun Up There” is a brutally honest and funny movie about struggling musicians entering the adult world while still trying to feed the creative soul long after success has left them behind. Wonderfully directed by Frankie Frain and featuring an exceptional screenplay from Geof Tarulli, this is a candid and sharp comedy-drama.

My favorite aspect of the film is Tarulli’s screenplay. It’s smart, sassy and doesn’t have a hollow ring to it. His dialogue has a wonderful economy and it drips with irony and sarcasm. And his characterizations are spot on. Mark is a lost soul who is perpetually caught in a 1990’s loop. He still uses a CD Walkman and has a flip phone. He’s holding on to the way things used to be, confident that it’s the right way. He doesn’t realize that he hasn’t evolved, and that he’s been left behind in the digital dust.

Jon Ryan puts in a fabulous performance as Mark. His puzzled expressions reveal his doubts and confusion about where he needs be, all the while knowing that his musical life is slipping away. Mark has to face up to adulthood, but that’s just too hard for the moment and he’d rather coast. Even his physical performance is great and reflects his uncertainty. Maria Natapov simply glows as Carla. She’s got a tough exterior, but after a few drinks her doubts and insecurities spill out. She gives an inspiring performance.

“Having Fun Up There” holds up a mirror to the struggling artist in all of us and tells us how not to live. Featuring great original rock and roll, Frankie Frain’s indie winner is a goofy call to keep moving the dream forward even if we have to become adults along the way.

To watch the trailer for “Having Fun Up There”, please visit: http://www.havingfunupthere.com and https://www.facebook.com/havingfunupthere?ref=stream

To purchase a copy of “Having Fun Up There”, please go to: http://redcowentertainment.com/store