Starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Juliana Margulies,
Tis the season for problematic films. Not only is The Upside a remake of the French hit The Intouchables (2011), but it was an American remake produced by the now defunct Weinstein Company. The Upside debuted at The Toronto Film Festival in 2017, where those who attended screenings panned it. While The Weinstein Company’s assets, including The Upside were sold, mico-distributor STX acquired the distribution rights, understanding they could push the film on Hart’s name, setting a release date for Jan 2019 (aka dumping ground season). What STX couldn’t have prepared for was the Kevin Hart PR nightmare that would hit in December and follow him all the way into the new year. It would be a shame for all these extracurricular circumstances to derail a decent film, but an upside to all this, the film isn’t worth watching in the first place.
Recently released from prison, Dell Scott (Hart) hasn’t done well finding a job, as dictated by his parole officer. He happens upon what he thought was a janitorial position, that turns out to be a very well paying gig for a life care auxiliary. Scott admits he doesn’t even know what that means, but simply asks for a signature from Yvonne (Kidman) who is managing the job search for her millionaire boss Phillip Lacasse (Cranston). Paralyzed in a hang-gliding accident, Lacasse cannot move or feel anything below the neck. He is impressed by Scott’s blunt behavior and decides to give the guy with no future or qualifications a chance. Yvonne allows him three strikes and then he is out. The two very different men become friends through a series of unexpected learning experiences.
For much of the film, Hart seems to be preforming in a different film altogether than the rest of the cast.
The Upside is dumbed down from the French version, it takes Scott’s point of view, playing off Hart’s particular flavor of comedy. Sure, it’s a step in a more serious direction for the standup comedian, but thirty minutes into the running time, it’s easily identifiable that both Hart and Cranston have been miscast. If skeptics and Twitter-haters think Green Book is racist or offensive, The Upside takes that political correctness to an entirely lower level. Although The Upside won’t be up for any awards, the scrutiny and think pieces won’t be written. The inescapable irony of The Upside is how scenes like Scott being uncomfortable saying the word “penis” or changing a catheter, come across awkward and layered in all the wrong ways. The first half of the film is impossible to separate Hart’s ongoing media issues with some of the actions of this character.
It’s nearly grotesque seeing Hart and Kidman interact together, the two actors couldn’t be more opposite in acting style. More irony is that Kidman’s 2018 film Boy Erased is quite a juxtaposition with Hart’s homophobic accusations. The single most engaging sequence of the film is one where Cranston and Margulies have the screen to themselves. The Intouchables worked so much better due to more nuanced filmmaking, everything here is on the nose and spelled out for the viewer. For much of the film, Hart seems to be preforming in a different film altogether than the rest of the cast. The first movie of 2019 is sadly looking like one of the worst.
Little ‘upside” to this dumbed down-English language remake.