The Upside

I’m going to address the elephant in the room first — Kevin Hart. I think what he said about gay people is atrocious. And it’s probably good that it hurt his chances of hosting the Oscars, mostly because his apology was garbage. He just kept getting angrier and angrier when asked to apologize or asked about the incident. An example of how to apologize and do the right thing, would have been what his character Dell in The Upside does regarding an ex and his son. She’s furious, but he just keeps doing the right thing, until he finally wins them over with his good deeds (paying back child support, etc.).

Yet nothing about that controversy should hurt the movie. Why should we start deciding what movies we’re going to see based on things actors say? Now, if it’s Roman Polanski, who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl and fled the country — sure. Boycott that film. If it’s Mel Gibson, who has said and done much, much worse than almost everyone else in Hollywood combined — I’m with ya. Let’s avoid his films. But if we’re going to talk about what Hart said in an attempt at humor — well, why are we not talking about Andrew “Dice” Clay and what he used to say onstage? Instead, we all praised him for his role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, and he got praised for playing Lady Gaga’s father in A Star is Born. And…are we going to boycott A Star is Born because of that, or because Lady Gaga worked with R. Kelly, knowing full-well the stuff he had been involved in. It just goes down this crazy rabbit hole (no reference to the terrific Nicole Kidman movie intended).

And, while I’m on the topic, I’m sure some critics will also bring up the fact that the original movie The Upside is based on, was produced by Harvey Weinstein. That shouldn’t have anything to do with this, either.

Speaking of that original French movie, The Intouchables, even though it was done in 2012, I couldn’t remember if I liked it or not. In all my 25 years of doing movie reviews, or my 49 years of life watching movies, I’ve never had that happen with a film I’ve seen (here’s my review of the original film: https://fox5sandiego.com/2012/05/25/the-intouchables/ )

That movie made over $400 million worldwide, but only $10 million domestically, so most people probably didn’t see it. That makes it the perfect vehicle to remake, and the perfect film for Hart to show he can play a more serious character. And he pulls that off. The chemistry he has with Bryan Cranston (who is great in everything he does) is wonderful. Perhaps my only complaint about the casting is that Nicole Kidman isn’t given quite enough to do.

A few other complaints would be the fact that the trailers showed a bit too much, and it ruined those scenes when they popped up on screen. And, the script could’ve been written a little sharper, but for the most part, the film works.

The story involves a smart-ass ex-con (Kevin Hart) who shows up at the home of billionaire quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston), looking for work. Well, he’s mostly looking for a signature to show his parole officer he’s actually looking for work.

There’s a well written scene that shows other job applicants before Hart. So many movies blow that type of scene by showing a montage of such ridiculous people it doesn’t feel the least bit realistic. What makes it great in this movie is that they say all the right things, but in a slightly corny way (“Let me be your arms and legs”). And as Kidman turns around to look at Cranston, thinking she’s hearing from the perfect candidate, the stoic, slightly angry look he has on his face is perfect for what it’s trying to convey.

Of course, he wants Hart because he’s funny and doesn’t give a sh**.

This is all based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, and one of the controversies that came up with the first movie was changing the race of Abdel (and the name, as Hart’s character is named Dell), but come on, folks. They’re trying to make an interesting movie, and that gives you other avenues to go down. It’s one of the reasons I’m going bonkers hearing these continued complaints about Green Book, which is a 97% true story, but the few things they added, everyone is having a cow about [side note: Green Book is being released in 500 more theatres this weekend, so you should get out and see the best movie of the year before the Oscars].

My wife did bring up a good point. If Phillip is a billionaire, why is he hiring only one person to work 24 hours a day for him, and not various people that work different shifts. But hey…they need a reason for Dell to be sleeping in, and not doing his job as well as he could.

The bond they develop feels earned. An early scene of that is when Dell finds out Phil has pain in his legs, and he decides to go buy some pot. They smoke it and end up at a hot dog stand, where a stoned Phillip wants to buy all the hot dogs they have. They end up giving one to a homeless woman, and…Dell impresses Phil by telling the cashier to address the man in the wheelchair, instead of asking him what he wants to order. It was done in a nicely subtle way, and everything about that scene is heartwarming and fun. Sure, the movie has some tropes and manipulative stuff, but it mostly works.

The Dell character should’ve been written a little less annoying in the beginning, but they really want to show how much he changes. Yet when the physical therapist comes in for the first time and he’s making all these comments on how attractive she is…I thought more about the current climate of sexual harassment and #metoo. Most people will think more about the Hart controversy when he doesn’t want to touch Phil’s penis to change a catheter (which is a very funny scene).

There are a few scenes that reminded me of Green Book (which is obviously, a much better film). A few scenes reminded me of Cranston in Why Him? (mostly the shower scene, where Dell can’t figure out how to operate it).

There were at least three scenes that had me crying my eyes out. The first being when Phil talks about why he wants to die.

There were many predictable moments, but those didn’t bother me much. One of those involves a painting Dell creates. All of the things I thought they should do with the scene, they did (comparing it to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy).

It was also a nice love letter to both opera and Aretha.

My wife and I both enjoyed it, and I’m giving it 3 ½ stars out of 5.