Sunday, February 24, 2019

‘The Upside’ Comes With a Few Downsides

Reel Reviews

Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) is a wealthy quadriplegic searching for someone to look after him. Meanwhile, Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con seeking work so he can provide for his family and stay out of prison. Upon stumbling into Phillip’s penthouse while he’s interviewing helpers, Mr. Lacasse gives the job to Scott right on the spot, despite his assistant’s (Nicole Kidman) trepidations. Though Dell is unqualified and disinterested in the job, the money is too good to pass up. Despite their differences, both Phillip and Dell will help one another as they share their opposing worlds and develop a budding friendship.

“The Upside” is a tale as old as time. Person from upper class is partnered with a person from the lower class, both discover things about one another as they become friends. One is an African American and an ex-con, the other is Caucasian and rich. It makes for a very groundbreaking experience that will tear down racial barriers and give everyone a look into another side. Which is what I would’ve said if this was the 1980s. This is 2019—there have been more than plenty of films that have done the same story with the same themes. “The Upside” is basically the poor version of “Driving Miss Daisy.”

As far as the humor goes, while it’s not outright terrible—on occasion the movie can make a funny or clever joke—some of the jokes feel dated. It’s tricky to explain unless you’ve actually seen the film first hand. If I could best describe it, it’s like a sweater. It’s nothing special but looks all right, until you look deep within the fabric and realize the thread holding it together is recycled. Much of the humor relies on Kevin Hart’s character as he’s thrown into unfamiliar situations. With jokes about the human body as he tries to take care of Phillip Lacasse, or jokes about him being an ex-con in a lavish environment. It’s the fish out of water idiom and it’s been done numerous times.

Despite my criticisms, however, the film is not entirely flawed. As far as the Drama genre section of the film goes, it’s handled fairly well. The message it’s trying to convey is understandable and positive. You have to try and live your life no matter what state it puts you in—no matter your status or state of health. Another plus is the chemistry and acting between Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. Both give a wonderful performance and act well off one another.

Mr. Cranston I believe needs no introduction. Whether it’s comedy, drama, or action, the man knows how to hold your attention and make it interesting. As for Kevin Hart—he surprised me. I’ve seen the actor in so many ludicrous comedy flops that seeing him trying to balance humor and drama was not something I thought he was capable of. While it’s nothing Oscar worthy, Hart does have a number of moments that were well-acted and even touching. In fact, a part of me kind of hopes that Hart considers doing more dramas in the future. With a strong story and capable director, I think he could pull it off.

“The Upside” is rated PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use. Despite the acting talents of Cranston and Hart, there’s not really anything more to write home about this film. It’s not downright terrible; far from it. It’s just a film that’s here for now, and in time, will fall into obscurity. Which is why the final score for “The Upside” is a 6.5 out of 10.

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