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The Upside - Movie Review

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The Upside - Movie Review

The Upside is a remake of the 2011 French film called The Intouchables which was about the real life story of a wealthy quadriplegic and the man hired to take care of him. Despite its lazy storytelling and corny sentimentality, that film went on to bring in upwards of $300 million in Europe and became one of the most successful in French history.

With that kind of success, it should surprise no one that Hollywood would try to funny it up, re-brand with a leading cast, and otherwise put the American spin on it. But what is surprising is how funny, poignant, and ingratiating this new version is. In fact, Neil Burger’s The Upside is a better film.

The Upside is an odd couple buddy story ultimately about bridging our divisions and understanding the impact people can have on each others’ lives. It stars Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as Phillip Lacasse, a quadriplegic millionaire who lost his wife to cancer and was paralyzed in an accident and has since holed himself up in his lavish Park Avenue suite with Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) tending to his daily business matters.

"The Upside is an odd couple buddy story ultimately about bridging our divisions and understanding the impact people can have on each others’ lives."

But he needs someone to take care of him. You know, someone to do things like change the bed sheets, feed and bathe him, lift him in and out of his wheelchair, and someone with the strength, fortitude, and boldness of character to change his urinary catheter.

And luck would have it that ex-con and ne’er-do-well Dell Scott (Kevin Hart, Night School) needs a job.

You guessed it, Phillip hires Dell in spite of his lack of experience and in spite of the fact that Dell was only looking to get a job search signature for his parole officer. And you also guessed that the two eventually hit it off and become best of buds. But it is the stuff that happens in between that makes it such a delightfully charming and oftentimes hilarious little film.

Efficiently directed with a thorough understanding of the brilliance that is happening between Cranston and Hart on screen, Burger wisely stands back and lets the two actors work their magic. And the shared chemistry between the two plays out in a way that is downright gut-busting at times yet always emotionally satisfying. And that’s what is often so difficult to pull off in a film like this – equal doses of humor and heart without overdoing either. Burger nails it.

This role is quite the departure for Hart and gives the audience an opportunity to see his more dramatic chops. That’s not to say he isn’t funny, however. He often has us doubled over in laughter with his signature slapstick sight gags, facial contortions, and machine-gun banter. But he unquestionably turns in his deepest, most distinct performance to date. Cranston, strapped with having to pull off a worthy performance with only facial expressions, is also up to the challenge, as is Kidman whose Yvonne never quite trusts Dell’s intentions, but realizes she must do as her boss demands.

And then there’s the magical way that newcomer Jon Hartmere’s script makes us sympathize with a couple of miserable cads who have estranged themselves from friends and family to the point of near isolation. Dell’s baby mama – who has custody of their teenaged son – wants nothing to do with him while Phillip’s moods range wildly from anger to depression to apathy and indifference. Yet, as the film hops briskly along, we slowly begin to sympathize with both of them.

The Upside - Movie Review

Dell and Phillip’s relationship takes a trajectory familiar to most buddy comedies; they initially can’t stand one another, eventually come to an understanding, have a falling out, then realize that they both rely equally on each other. As different as their life struggles are, it is their ability to learn from one another that ultimately builds and strengthens a true and incredibly one-of-a-kind friendship.

The themes explored in The Upside are certainly nothing new, and neither is Burger’s film particularly stylish, uniquely structured, or earth-shattering in its singularity. Yet for a remake of a French film that has been run through the Hollywood filmmaking machine that we all know has a unique ability to really screw things up, this one certainly could have been much, much worse.

3 stars

The Upside - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use.
125 mins
: Neil Burger
Jon Hartmere
Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman
: Comedy | Drama
Based on a true story.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Oh, she's from Buffalo? She's gonna be heavy."
Theatrical Distributor:
STX Entertainment
Release Date:
January 11, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy man with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record who's hired to help him.

The Upside - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

No details available.

The Upside - Movie Review

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