Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston have an undeniable chemistry that makes The Upside a delightful and charming winter film.
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is an African-American man living in the Bronx in need of signatures for his parole officer to prove that he is actively looking for work. Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) is an older, quadriplegic white man in a posh Manhattan apartment in need of a life auxiliary. Although an unlikely pairing, Phillip hires Dell on the spot, despite a laundry list of applicants that were more qualified for the position.
A remake of the French film The Intouchables, and inspired by a true story, The Upside adopts the same plot of the 2011 foreign box office hit. Dell’s tumultuous relationship with his preteen son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), and his son’s mother (Aja Naomi King) paints a picture of a man who has avoided the responsibility of caring for those closest to him throughout his adult life. Phillip’s sterile, regimented surroundings and serious demeanor depict someone who had given up on enjoying life due to his unfortunate circumstances.
When Dell moves into the lavish apartment to take on his new role, the skepticism from the people surrounding Phillip clashes with Dell’s irresponsible nature as he struggles to step up to the job. Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), Phillip’s assistant, is a ringleader for this skepticism, but Phillip’s insistence in keeping Dell hired prevents her from firing him despite the multitude of mistakes that he makes during his tenure. Included in these mistakes are not showing up for work on time (despite being a live-in auxiliary), stealing, outright refusing to do tasks assigned to him, and taking his boss’s Ferrari on a trip to the Bronx without telling anyone beforehand. Even though Hart is naturally funny and the developing relationship between Hart and Cranston’s characters is very entertaining to watch unfold, when their friendship does finally become rocky, it makes you wonder why the “last straw” happened when things seemed to be going so well.
Even though the film lightly touches on the obvious elephant in the room when Phillip’s assistant assures Dell that she’s afraid of him but “not for the reason he thinks”, it never openly acknowledges any racial dynamics at play. This is understandable, because having someone of a lower socioeconomic background and a criminal record move into a millionaire’s mansion would be enough to cause potential conflict, but may force some viewers to suspend belief in order to fully buy-in to the storyline. If you’re able to accept that the movie is more about how great it feels to watch two totally different walks of life get along, learn from one another, and have fun doing it than deep social commentary, The Upside is a film that will take you on an uplifting seasonal joy ride.
The film hits theaters this Friday.
Photo Credit: STX Entertainment