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USD $1 ₱ 58.79 0.0000 June 21, 2024
June 20, 2024
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‘Upline Downline’ Makes a Bizarre Argument

The film is far more invested in depicting the unscrupulous side of this business than telling a story about its lead character working hard and finding success.

Upline Downline is a film that advocates multilevel marketing, but it does it in a pretty bizarre way. It tells the story of Richard (Matt Evans), who at the start of the movie is stuck in a series of dead end contractual jobs, and is unable to provide for his live-in girlfriend Ann (Ritz Azul). He runs into his old friend Carlo (Alex Castro), who takes the couple in when they’re evicted from their apartment. Carlo, as it turns out, is an unscrupulous businessman involved in a shady MLM scam. While Richard joins a legitimate MLM firm, his story is contrasted with that of Carlo, who continues to dabble in illegal practices.

Let’s put aside for now the idea that multilevel marketing as a concept has proven time and again to be a dubious business proposition at best and take the movie at face value. Taken simply as a feature film, it is very bad. It is bizarrely structured and weirdly sexist. The film is far more invested in depicting the unscrupulous side of this business than telling a story about its lead character working hard and finding success. Even as an advocacy film for the merits of multilevel marketing, it isn’t very good. The film spends so much time talking about the bad side that it hardly ever gets to the good side.

Not that there’s much to the good side. The whole thing is built on the promise of affluence and the trappings of such: fancy cars, nice clothes, and a nice house. In one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen in a cinema, the film begins with a Christian prayer that seems to conflate wealth with goodness. This is where it all starts; the film laying out a philosophy of purely materialistic goodness that seems to be completely oblivious of the consequences of such a devotion to capitalistic excess. Part of the story involves Ann leaving Richard because he ends up neglecting her because of multilevel marketing. But in the end, he wins her back, and gains the acceptance of her mother, because multilevel marketing made him rich. This is problematic, to say the least.

In painting out the supposedly illegitimate multilevel marketing companies, the movie goes into full-blown insanity. The way the film depicts, it’s hard to see the fundamental difference in the way that they do business. They still take investment, and they still sell products. What’s different is that they apparently involve the use of prostitutes at some point. They’re also in business with corrupt politicians. What’s amazing is that even as it portrays Carlo as somebody completely unscrupulous, the tird act of this film involves him joining the same MLM firm as Richard and doing really well. Apparently, even an outright criminal like Carlo is welcome in legitimate MLM businesses.

The production is not very good. The camerawork is very flat, a lot of these scenes playing out as static two-shots. When the movie manages to get more than one shot in, the lighting continuity is usually pretty bad. The editing is clunky and disjointed. The sound is all over the place. The acting is just about as bad as you’d expect. Matt Evans and Ritz Azul have all the chemistry of two pieces of wood. Even the likes of Rez Cortez and Snooky Serna aren’t able to turn this material into anything worth seeing.

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Upline Downline makes the case that multilevel marketing is good by telling us that there are multilevel marketing firms out there that are bad. It is ridiculous, and almost has to be seen to be believed. To its credit, the film isn’t just a hard sell on the industry, and is a little better than having sit through one of their seminars. Putting aside everything one might feel about the industry, there is just no getting around how bad the movie is on a very basic level. That is the real scam here.

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