In a typically down month for film, there tends to be one or two that stands out. I first saw previews for The Upside several months ago and knew I had to add it to my list of films to view. I’m glad I did.
Director Neil Burger’s remake of The Intouchables guides us through the story of Phillip Lacasse and Del Scott. Phillip (Bryan Cranston) is an extremely wealthy white man who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident. He hires Del (Kevin Hart), an African-American parolee trying to get his life back on track and reconnect with his wife and kid, as his caretaker. At first, Del only answers Phillip’s call for help to get a signature to show his parole officer that he is looking for work. Not really intending on working for Phillip. Del does not have experience taking care of a quadriplegic person, but Phillip sees something in him and offers him the gig; despite reservations from his snooty executive, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). What ensues is a friendship where each man teaches the other something valuable about life.
The Upside may not win many (if any) awards, but it does not necessarily have to achieve that to be enjoyable. Cranston and Hart exude a marvelous chemistry and feed off each other in a brilliant way. It took me a little by surprise as I cannot recall the pair working together in the past. Add Kidman to what ends up being a phenomenal trifecta that carries you through the film’s 126-minute run. One point of critique, however, is the way the film begins. We are thrown right into the action as Phillip and Del race down a Manhattan street in one of Phillip’s sports cars. They end up being pulled over by the cops and Del tries to explain about Phillip’s “situation.” Police offer an escort to a local hospital where it turns out Phillip is faking his health episode. The sequence appears once more later on in the film, so I did not understand the point of including it at its beginning.
The Upside did not have me jumping out of my seat applauding, but it is worth the time to see. If, for no other reason, go see it to witness the performances from its trifecta of stars. You will be glad you did.
I Give It An: A-