RELEASE DATE: January 11, 2019
MPAA RATING: PG-13 (for suggestive content and drug use)
As we learn from the film’s opening sequence, The Upside is inspired by a true story. It’s good that director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) clues the audience in on this fact, since it is one of those stories that, in many ways, seems unlikely to have occurred. The movie is also based on the 2011 French film, The Intouchables.
Despite it being categorized as a comedy, The Upside is filled with poignancy and pathos, thanks in large part to the work of screenwriter Jon Hartmere. In a real sense it is a “buddy movie,” as a friendship develops between an ex-convict named Dell (Kevin Hart) who takes a job as an assistant to quadriplegic billionaire Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston).
Hart’s performance is mellow, some may say restrained even, compared to many of his film roles, and Cranston again shows us how good he is with his craft, especially given the confines of a wheelchair, where he is essentially performing from the neck upward. It is worth noting that Cranston has taken some heat from various individuals and organizations that feel the role should have gone to a disabled actor. Regardless of one’s perspective on that, it would be difficult for one to find fault with his portrayal, which is often subtle and nuanced in several key scenes.
The upside to The Upside is that it is an engaging and entertaining film that runs the gamut of emotions, from laughter to tears. In the end it reminds us to cherish friendship and to embrace life, no matter our circumstances.