Review: ‘The Upside’
The upside about the movie, “The Upside,” is that it’s entertaining, thought-provoking and uplifting.
Kevin Hart plays Dell Scott, whose parole officer mandates that he find a job. Bryan Cranston plays Phillip Lacasse, a wealthy self-help author who is a person with a disability, quadriplegia, after being injured in a para-glider accident.
Dell Scott is hired to be Phillip Lacasse’s in-home health-care worker, much to the dismay of Nicole Kidman, who plays Yvonne Pendleton, Lacasse’s home office manager.
“The Upside” has a fish-out-of-water movie plot: The character played by Hart is in a new environment. “The Upside” is also a buddy movie in the tradition of Hollywood movies where the buddies are from opposite sides of the tracks and must overcome personality differences to achieve a mutual understanding.
There are several subplots in “The Upside.” Dell is estranged from Latrice (Aja Naomi King), mother of his son Anthony (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), because Dell hasn’t been making child-support payments.
Phillip is corresponding, by letter no less, with Lily (Julianna Margulies), a woman he’s never met. Yvonne is emotionally-aloof from Phillip and almost everyone she’s in contact with.
Symbolically and literally, Phillip is in a shell. Dell has no shell, or boundaries. Latrice has her guard up. Yvonne has created an emotional shell.
“The Upside” is a fascinating character study and a look at unusual friendships, with life lessons to ponder, and some fine performances to savor.
“The Upside” is a remake of the 2011 French film, “The Intouchables,” based on the real-life story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou (seen in the 2003 documentary film). The screenplay by Jon Hartmere (his theatrical film screenplay debut) is based on “The Intouchables” screenplay by Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, who co-directed “The Intouchables.”
“The Upside” director Neil Burger (director, “Divergent,” 2014; “The Illusionist,” 2006) creates a satisfying mix of drama and comedy. One minute you might be aghast at some of the comments. The next minute you might laugh out loud. After that, you may shed a tear over the emotions expresssed by the actors. Cranston and Hart are terrific together.
Cranston (Oscar nominee, actor, “Trumbo,” 2016; TV’s “Breaking Bad,” 2008-2013) is a revelation as Phillip. Cranston is in a wheelchair, which he controls with a chin lever. Cranston expresses a range of emotions using only facial expressions, eye movements and his voice. Cranston does so with droll eloqence and sparkling brilliance.
This is a breakthrough role for Hart (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” 2017; “Ride Along,” movies, 2014, 2016) as Dell. Hart, a popular standup comic, mines the humor in several scenes to great effect. Hart reaches deeper than in his previous films, showing a reflective side quite different from many of his stereotypical roles.
Kidman (Oscar recipient, actress, “The Hours,” 2002) efficiently downplays her role as Yvonne. King (“The Birth Of A Nation,” 2016; TV’s “How To Get Away With Murder,” 2014-2019) is memorable as the estranged mother.
The relationships in “The Upside” are operatic, exemplified by the soundtrack, which includes Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from “Turandot,” sung by Luciano Pavarotti and also sung by Aretha Franklin. You can also hear some of J.S. Bach’s “Mass in B Minor.”
“The Upside” has an unlikely premise for a drama comedy. The upside is that “The Upside” works.
“The Upside,” PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for suggestive content and drug use; Genre: Drama, Comedy; Run time: 2 hrs., 6 mins.; Distributed by STX Entertainment.
Credit Readers Anonymous: “The Upside” was filmed at several locations in Kevin Hart’s hometown, Philadelphia, including the Kimmel Center, and also at the Black Bass Hotel, Lumberville, Bucks County, and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton. “The Upside” is dedicated “In Memory of Aretha Franklin,” who died in 2018.
Box Office, Feb. 1-3: “Glass” made it a three-peat for the Super Bowl weekend, three straight weeks at No. 1, with $9.5 million, $88.6 million, three weeks, as “The Upside” made it a three-peat at No. 2, close behind with $8.8 million, $75.5 million, four weeks, and “Miss Bala” opened at No. 3 with $6.7 million, one week. 4. “Aquaman” floated down one place, with $4.7 million, $323.5 million, seven weeks. 5. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse,” an Animated Feature Oscar nominee, again hung on at the same place, $4.4 million, $175.2 million, eight weeks. 6. “Green Book” stayed open at the same place, driven by its Oscar bounce of five Academy Award nominations, $4.3 million, $55.8 million, 12 weeks. 7. “The Kid Who Would Be King” dropped three places, $4.2 million, $13.1 million, two weeks. 8. “A Dog’s Way Home” ran down one place, $3.5 million, $35.9 million, four weeks. 9. “Escape Room” didn’t escape from the same place, $2.9 million, $52 million, five weeks. 10. “They Shall Not Grow Old,” $2.4 millon, weekend; $10.7 million, seven weeks.
Unreel, Feb. 8:
“The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” PG: Mike Mitchell directs the voice talents of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Tiffany Haddish in the Animation Feature Film Comedy. Duplo invaders from outer space wreck Legoland faster than its residents can rebuild it.
“What Men Want,” R: Adam Shankman directs Taraji P. Henson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Max Greenfield and Kellan Lutz in the Fantasy Comedy. A woman develops a superpower to hear men’s thoughts.
“Cold Pursuit,” R: Hans Petter Moland directs Emmy Rossum, Liam Neeson, Julia Jones and Laura Dern in the Thriller. A snowplow driver seeks revenge against drug dealers. It’s based on the 2014 Norwegian film, “In Order of Disappearance.”
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes