In theaters nationwide as of Friday, THE UPSIDE is an American update to the 2011 French box office hit “Les Intouchables.” Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star as the most unlikely of friends, who push each other to explore life and relish in its possibilities.
Hart plays ex-con Dell Scott, who is “seemingly” seeking a job to fulfill his probationary obligations. In search of a signature, he stumbles into an interview as a caretaker for quadriplegic billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Cranston) who hires him against huge opposition from his chief-of-staff Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). The pairing leads to humor, life lessons and a genuine friendship that no one involved would have predicted.
The film is being described as a dramedy and, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see Hart stretch his acting chops. In speaking about accepting the role Hart shared,
“It was a challenge that I welcomed with open arms. I’ve yet to do something like this. I’ve yet to step into this space. I’m about opening up doors. And this is a door that I’ve been hesitant to open because I wanted to make sure that the project was right when I actually did it. The Upside is the perfect project for me to step in that direction of a drama-esque performance but still stay true to my comedy roots.”
In addition to witnessing Hart’s growth, the Cranston and Hart pairing really played well on-screen. When questioned about the film and working with Kevin, Cranston offered,
“This is a drama with comedic undertones because you find some humor in tragic situations. We needed that to buoy the story and propel it along. But Kevin is a very smart guy and he knew exactly what the tone of this was and what he needed to do.”
If I had to be critical of one thing, it would be the fact that Hart’s character, and his family, are portrayed in such dire circumstances. I had to debate if I believed it was stereotypical or just too much of a cliché. I say this as a person who hasn’t watched the original movie, but is very aware that it is inspired by a true story (the Dell character is based on the life of Abdel Sellou). In the end, it wasn’t distracting enough for me not to enjoy the story and invest in the ride (which led me to conclude the latter in my internal debate).
In sum, I thought the Cranston/Hart match up was good, the story was enjoyable (albeit with some clichés) and there are enough laughs to counter some very tough moments. I would rate THE UPSIDE a 3 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Until next thought, Thomasena