Film Review – The Upside (2017)

Title – The Upside (2017)

Director – Neil Burger (The Illusionist)

Cast – Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan, Julianna Margulies

Plot – Based on the true story of millionaire quadriplegic Philip Lacasse (Cranston) and his friendship with his non-traditional carer Dell Scott (Hart), who escapes from a life of crime to help Philip rediscover his passion for life.  

“I can’t feel anything. I don’t feel anything”

Review by Eddie on 09/09/2019

Firstly, if for whatever reason you are reading this review and have never seen 2011’s The Intouchables, one of the biggest French films of all time and one of the most likeable films you’re likely to have the pleasure of watching, stop reading right now and track down a copy, you’ll thank me later, trust me.

The true story of quadriplegic millionaire Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his friendship with his anything but ordinary carer Abdel Sellou was fabulously told by filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano in The Intouchables and many would be right in thinking that the French film was most definitely not crying out for a Hollywood remake.

As is the case with the billionaire dollar industry however, The Intouchables has found itself being re-hashed for a subtitle hating American audience in the form of The Upside (which was a surprise box-office hit in the USA earlier in 2019), with Illusionist and Divergent filmmaker Neil Burger and his cast lead by the Oscar seeking Bryan Cranston, comedian Kevin Hart and Australian darling Nicole Kidman taking on the beloved true story.

Filmed many moons ago and held back due to the Weinstein saga and some mediocre early festival release reviews, The Upside is surprisingly tolerable and far better than it has any right to be, which isn’t to say its anywhere near as good as its far better early offering that managed to be both hilariously honest and moving in a much stronger sense than is to be found here.

Gone are the subtleties, laugh out loud and tear inducing moments from The Intouchables and welcomed in are sign-posted plot and character developments, caricatures, mild chuckles and some slightly moving moments in Burger’s effort, that keeps the core of the story in tact but never expands or delves too heavily into the themes and motivations that would’ve helped The Upside feel like more of a memorable addition to this true life tale.

Importantly for the film, Cranston and Hart make for a likeable double act, Cranston’s as good here as his been post Breaking Bad as the forlorn Philip, while perhaps most surprisingly Hart is relatively restrained as the criminal turned straight shooting Dell Scott, who begins to open up the world of Philip while also learning important life lessons himself.

It’s a shame Burger couldn’t of mined more from this double act as the two’s relationship and on screen chemistry is only ever surface deep, an issue that was never a problem for The Intouchables that got the most out of its star double act in the form of François Cluzet and Omar Sy, who bought the house down by fully inhabiting the mismatched duo and bringing them to life in fun and unexpected ways.

Final Say –

A generic offering that’s very much the lesser feature film of the touching story of two oddball friends, The Upside is watchable and often enjoyable thanks to its true life tale and lead performers but far from memorable or necessary.

3 high-tech bathrooms out of 5  

9 responses to “Film Review – The Upside (2017)

  1. I agree fully. Well, I probably will when I get around to actually seeing The Intouchables! (I should’ve watched in in the run-up to this movie — though “The Upside” A) never struck me as that kind of movie you’d do that with and B) I didn’t actually know it was a remake at the time, whoops).

    What do you make of the accusations toward both films regarding the racial undertones? I heard The Intouchables took its fair share of critical flak for the way it assumes typical black-white relations — Omar Sy the servant to Cluzet’s wealthy white philanthropist. But if these were real experiences — how can anyone race-shame the film for depicting what actually was?

    • I feel like The Intouchables is actually a very thoughtful film and as far as I am aware quite true to the real life events, even if it had been enhanced for a cinematic treatment.

      It’s honestly a film worth seeking out, I don’t know of anyone that didnt really fall in love with it.
      E

  2. I actually switched this off a quarter of the way through. I think something definitely got lost in translation. I don’t think this is strictly a ‘film’ problem, I found that when I was reading The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, the novel was lacking any real personality and the dialogue felt jilted and forced. I am completely uninformed here but maybe a very specific translator needs to be engaged for these types of translation projects? I will attempt to get through this again one day…

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