Rob Reviews "The Upside"
It is no secret that I have gotten to critical mass with Kevin Hart. It feels like every time I turn around, there is another film or television show featuring him being hurled at me to the point where I have uttered the phrase “dude, it’s cool to say ‘no’ every once and again”. (And we are not even going into the Oscars saga here.) So, to start the year with “The Upside,” there was a certain level of grumbling for me as I entered the auditorium for this screening. However, coming out the other end of it proved me wrong on multiple levels.
Director Neil Burger of “The Illusionist” and “Divergent” takes a bit of a left turn here by remaking the 2011 French Film “The Intouchables,” and based on a true story where ex-con Dell (Hart) is trying to put his life after prison together without much success, which is mostly because of his own laziness. By a confusing set of circumstances, he ends up as the life auxiliary of extremely wealthy business investor Phillip (Bryan Cranston), a quadriplegic who hires him due to the fact that he is completely different from everyone else. With no experience in this arena but a baby mama (Aja Naomi King)who has shut him out of the life of him and their son and the goal of keeping himself on this side of the bars, he takes the job and the result changes both of them forever while Dell is under the watchful eye of Phillip’s business executive Yvonne (Nicole Kidman).
I have not seen the film “The Upside” is based on and did so on purpose. It was important to me to go into this as cold as possible, especially since I was already a bit jaded after trailers that seemed to show the only parts of the film that would be worth the two hours and five minutes I would spend on this film. What I found with this film is SO much more. Sure, I could watch Bryan Cranston read the phone book, and I was prepared for Hart to be out of his league here, but their chemistry is undeniable for one simple reason: Hart has finally been able to find that place where he dials his personality back and lets a performance be what it needs to be. Perhaps it was solid direction by Burger or that combined with a bit of mentoring by his co-star, but for the first time in a LONG time, I enjoyed a performance by Kevin Hart. That’s right… I wrote that. I have also been told that this is a bit more sugary than “The Intouchables,” so if you have seen that version be prepared for that.
Adding to my worry as the film began was Kidman. Since I was going in cold, I was not sure about the relationship between Yvonne and Phillip, so I assumed that she was his daughter. With her accent coming through right off the bat, I started to feel like this was a cash grab for her which would lead to the performance becoming an albatross. Once I understood that there was no blood relation there, I was able to settle in and let this script’s beautiful balance of emotion and comedy take me on this ride. This is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is entertaining, enjoyable, and a nice breath of fresh air on every level. If you are looking for a fun way to spend a couple of hours that will hit all the feels, “The Upside” is one you should put on your list!