#REVIEW: “THE UPSIDE”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
We are first introduced to Dell (Kevin Hart) who is out on parole, being told that he must prove that he is actively looking for work by getting signatures from potential employers to whom he had applied for work. It is established quickly that he is more interested in getting signatures versus getting a job where he would be able to catch-up on support payments to his ex (Aja Naomi King, best known for How to Get Away With Murder) and his young, estranged son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston). Thinking he would get another signature by applying for a janitorial position at a swanky Park Avenue address in Manhattan, we learn that the job is to be a caretaker for Phillip (Bryan Cranston) a wealthy quadriplegic. Despite the fact that Dell is highly unqualified for the job, Phillip likes Dell’s no nonsense attitude and is hired, much to the chagrin of his executive assistant played by Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Much of what happens from then on in THE UPSIDE is yet another fish-out-of-water, racially and class divided series of events that will appeal to fans of the mould.
Unlike many, I look forward to watching remakes of movies, only to see what interesting interpretations a new performer can bring to an established role or character. Based on a true story, THE UPSIDE is a Hollywood reimagining of one of the most highly-acclaimed and financially successful from France in 2012, The Intouchables. Whereas the two movies share some of the same scenes and jokes, but what is missing in THE UPSIDE, through minimal fault of the actors involved, is that sense of joie-de-vivre and chemistry between the lead actors.
I have been a huge fan of Bryan Cranston since his Emmy-nominated days on Malcolm in the Middle. There is nothing this actor can do that is not compelling to watch, whether it be the big or small screen and he has even conquered Broadway. His performance in this Movie is a beacon of flickering, dimming light considering how little he has to do. Therein lies the rub. The Screenwriters and Director are responsible for not being able to take THE UPSIDE to the cinematic stratosphere. Their inabilities to show Phillip in a more enthralling way and the criminal misuse of Nicole Kidman is disappointing. This is an Actress who can take any role and make it mesmerizing and she is given little to work with here. Mad props must also be given to Kevin Hart for taking on a role outside his comfort zone. He doesn’t always succeed in showing much range, but it is a valiant effort.
Where THE UPSIDE succeeds, brilliantly I may add, is that the Music used is a character unto itself. Opera plays a huge role, but when Aretha Franklin’s musical genius is featured, the Movie soars higher than the hang-gliding we see in the Film.
Elevation Pictures release THE UPSIDE Friday, January 11, 2019.