The Upside, 2018.
Directed by Neil Burger.
Starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Tate Donovan, Golshifteh Farahani, Julianna Margulies, and Aja Naomi King.
When a wealthy man with quadriplegia (Bryan Cranston) employs an ex-convict (Kevin Hart) with no experience as his carer, it sets them both on an unexpected path of friendship and discovery.
Sidestepping the critical default setting of grumbling about remaking something as triumphant as 2012’s gallic tearjerker Untouchable, you can condense the obvious by stating that The Upside is not as good as its foreign language forbearer. However, taken on its own merits, bolstered by a trio of utterly charming lead performances from Hart, Cranston, and Kidman, this excels on the back of their chemistry, and the undeniably powerful human story at its core.
It’s a Capraesque tale that’s as predictable as the inevitability of an English language remake. Mismatched characters are thrown together by twists of fate, who learn to accept eachother, despite their differences. With themes like that The Upside had the potential to drown in TV-movie-of-the-week saccharine, but thanks largely to the ensemble, it manages to embrace the fromage and warm the heart.
It’s a different kind of Hart who anchors the movie, providing the Jumanji and Night School comedian his most high profile straight role as ex-con, Dell. He handles the material with ease, combining enough zingers that land, with the more dramatic emotional beats. It’s a reined in, utterly likeable performance, with the way in which he bounces off Cranston, Kidman, and the particularly good, if somewhat underused Golshifteth Farahani (Paterson), making the movie zip along, which will be especially useful if you’re already familiar with the way the story unfolds.
Cranston delivers good grouch, ensuring that his exchanges with the unfiltered Hart establishes a relationship upon which to build the film, and thankfully it’s a double-act which works. As well as their easy patter, there are a few really enjoyable set-pieces, including an inebriated visit to a hot dog restaurant, or a trip to the opera that draws looks of disapproval, but also some pretty decent giggles.
Nicole Kidman is on hand to lend solid support, and even if her thread is the most predictably clunky, her performance can’t help but plant a goofy smile on the face of any old romantics in the audience.
The Upsides biggest downside is probably how genteel and middle-of-the-road it all is. Everything, from the small scale locales, which give it the feel of a Broadway production, to the unremarkable directing style and forgettable music, are all a little too safe, and that flies in the face of a film that’s all about taking risks.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt