The Upside

The Upside
The Upside
Directed by Neil Burger
Starring Nicole Kidman, Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Julianna Margulies, Golshifteh Farahani and Tate Donovan
In UK Cinemas January 11th, 2019

by Alex Plant

A successful foreign film getting an English Language remake is as inevitable as the eventual critical cries of it “not being as good as the original”. The Intouchables was one the highest-grossing french movies of all time, striking a chord with audiences both internationally and in its native country. However, many critics found the true life tale overly saccharine and twee. The Upside is a pretty slavish remake and, put simply, if you were among those that didn’t enjoy the original then this version is going to do little to warm you on the true-life tale.

Phillip (Cranston) is a wealthy quadriplegic in need of a new live-in carer at his luxurious New York penthouse. Dell (Hart) is a streetwise ex-con who, when he’s not being a deadbeat dad, is struggling to hold a job down. One charming mix-up later and Dell gets the job of looking after Phillip full-time, much to the dismay of Philip’s executive assistant, Yvonne (Kidman). After a rocky start, the two men form a friendship and their different lifestyles lead to all sorts of enjoyable misadventures. Most of the jokes are lifted directly from the french version, and in some cases so are exact shots. Sure, there are a few changes and, for the most part, they actually work very well, but there’s certainly no reinvention of the wheel.

Everybody knows Cranston is capable of delivering consistently excellent performances, and this is no exception. He portrays Phillip with a subtle sense of faded dignity and brings an understated presence to the role. The pleasant surprise here is that Hart is equally excellent. Known primarily for his “I’m short and shouty” style of comedy, it’s incredibly refreshing to see him deliver a toned-down, mature and layered performance. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of things for him to get up-in-arms about, but he and Cranston have a natural chemistry and seem to bring out the best in each other. The addition of a son he’s desperate to impress and eager to not see make the same poor life choices is one of the aforementioned positive changes from the source material that adds adds an interesting dimension to the character. Kidman doesn’t get too much to do, but her character’s role is woven a little more neatly into the narrative this time around.

The Upside is a perfectly perfunctory feel-good film, and that’s no great sin. There are a couple of moments where a character has a seemingly out-of-nowhere reaction to something that feels a little bizarre, but not so much so that it ruins the mood. It’s certainly not the best movie about race and class differences, but nevertheless, it is a lovely, well-acted story of an unlikely friendship. Even the lack of an original take does little to dampen this heartwarming tale.


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