“THE UPSIDE” starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman is in theaters this weekend. It’s directed by Neil Burger and was actually released at a few film festivals back in 2017. However, after the Weinstein allegations began to break it was shelved and pulled from the calendar. This is a remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables” and is inspired by true events. It centers on a wealthy man that is a quadriplegic after a tragic paragliding accident. Against the advice of his assistant he decides to hire a parolee to be his caregiver and they form an unlikely friendship that will put both of their lives back on course.
I will admit I was very curious about the pairing of Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. But overall this film didn’t really jump out at me all too much. The trailers made it look a little formulaic. It also looked to be potentially sappy and nothing struck me as feeling fresh. But I had a great time watching and found it to be much more emotionally engaging, and refreshingly optimistic than I was expecting it to be. The story does follow a strict template. There are some clichés, and despite the emotional swings between the characters, you can safely assume how the story will close itself out.
Surprisingly though, I didn’t feel these slight hindrances overly effected the enjoyment and connection I had while watching. It does get a little cute at times, but for the most part it was free of melodramatics. And regardless of the subplots feeling recycled, it was down-to-earth with a natural sense-of-humor that kept me engaged throughout. Primarily because I liked these characters. The relationship between Cranston and Hart felt genuine and it effectively grabbed on to my curiosity.
Cranston’s character was a wealthy man who went from being able to literally do anything he wanted. To becoming a man who couldn’t even take care of himself. Hart’s character was a man trying to be a better father to his son than his father was to him, yet he is following in the same footsteps. And I thought watching the arcs in these characters evolve throughout the film, primarily because of one another, was compelling because of the sincerity it captured. Their simple differences, the awkward situations created from their work- relationship, and their friendship on its own were able to weave different angles of effective humor.
This kept the mood light while still conveying the emotional aspects of the story and with a great delivery from Hart and Cranston, I was laughing many more times during this movie than expected. From comical scenarios and predicaments, to character reactions, and clever dialogue, the laughs felt continually fresh. The performance from Cranston was just what this role needed. He was forced to simply use dialogue and facial expressions to portray a range of different emotions and I think he pulled it off nicely.
Kevin Hart was very good as well and much better in this role than I was expecting. He put in some solid acting and gave the character layers of authentic depth. He does go into (Kevin Hart Comedy Mode) at times, but it never felt skewed past the scope of this character and I appreciated that. Both this story and the character reigned in Hart’s comedic energy nicely. It gave him a more natural flow and it made the laughs hit with impact when he did deliver. He also had some added help from Cranston as well who delivered some of his sense-of-humor by embracing his comedic roots in this more dramatic role. I thoroughly enjoyed their chemistry and thought they worked very well off one another. Their timing was nicely woven, and it effectively sold me on the strong connection their two characters had.
Nicole Kidman was a fantastic addition. I think she was able to put some shine on a character that would’ve possibly been less memorable without someone of her star-power in the role. She had a nice chemistry with Cranston that sold me on their years of history. She also captured an awkward, and at times perplexed chemistry with Hart as well that brought amusement to their uneasy relationship which made watching it evolve during the story more enjoyable. She too was able to come in with some subtly comedic moments during the story at times to leave an impression that I felt added greatly to both the atmosphere and energy of the story.
The run-time at just over two-hours does feel a little long in the second-act. But for the most part it keeps a steady pace. It doesn’t try to force emotions onto the viewer and overall resulted in an uplifting story of friendship, life, and love. The performances were very well done and tailored nicely for the roles. They created a group likable characters in a naturally charming story, that I recommend checking out.