By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Well, color me surprised. I didn’t think it was possible to improve on the outstanding 2011 French movie, “Les Intouchables.”
However, “The Upside”
is a worthy remake that oozes with as much charm and sincerity as the original film which is based on a true story.
In “The Upside,” from director Neil Burger (“Divergent”), Kevin Hart (“Night School”) gets to showcase his dramatic and
Both are in fine form here thanks to the clever script from screenwriter Jon Hartmere. It allows Hart to do his thing, but without him overselling the comedy and dramatic aspects of the film. In other words, a little Hart goes a long way.
And while teaming Hart with Bryan Cranston, at first blush might seem like an odd choice, they really do pull this off and are a pretty perfect together.
Cranston plays Phillip an extremely wealthy, widowed writer living in a swanky, Park Avenue Penthouse in New York City. He became a quadriplegic after a hand-gliding accident. Phillip has a willing assistant to look after him named Yvonne (another nice role for Nicole Kidman, “Aquaman” and “Destroyer”). Even he knows that she can’t be around him all the time. So, they start interviewing candidates who have experience and can handle the rigors of caring for Phillip. They get some applicants that are OK, but most just don’t seem like a good fit.
Along comes Dell (Hart). He’s as far removed from any of the people who have walked through the door. Dell is an ex-con and in between jobs. He’s just there to get signatures to show his parole officer that he’s actively seeking employment. He could go back to hustling on the streets, but that won’t endear him to his ex-wife, Latrice (Aja Naomi King, TV’s “How to Get Away with Murder”) who has grown tired of him. Dell isn’t likely to score any points either with his teen son, Anthony ((Jahi Di’Allo Winston, “Proud Mary” and TV’s “The New Edition Story”). He wishes his dad would just grow up and be more responsible.
So, when Dell starts asking applicants about the live-in aide job, he decides to barge in on Yvonne and Phillip because he has to pick up Anthony from school and doesn’t have all day to wait around.
Dell’s gruff demeanor is off-putting to Yvonne. Phillip kind of likes him though. He offers to hire Dell within minutes of talking with him, much to the surprise of Yvonne. Keep in mind that Dell has no clue what the job entails and no experience doing anything like it. But he’s hired with a large salary and tony living quarters.
Over time, Dell and Phillip develop a bond and their bromance is funny and heartwarming. Dell is exposed to fine dining, the opera and art and Phillip's sleek Ferrari.
While Dell has a tough time wrapping his head around this bold new world he’s discovering, he comes around to appreciate it and in turn sees Phillip in a different and respectful way.
Phillip is also moved by Dell. Through their interactions he learns a lot about himself and Dell too. But, it’s not all lovey-dovey. A series of events—caused in part by Dell and which involves the lovely Julianna Margulies (TV’s “Dietland” and “The Good Wife”)--occurs that makes Phillip lash out and withdraw from everyone for a while.
What makes “The Upside” weighty and special is that the characters are so relatable. There’s not a person on screen that you’re not invested in and rooting for as this movie rolls along.
There’s no downside to “The Upside.” It’s the first major movie to kick off the New Year and it’s a very good one.
Watch This Trailer For "THE UPSIDE"
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Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics’ Association, The Black Film Critics Circle, The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.